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SIDIC Periodical XXXI - 1998/2
Good and Evil After Auschwitz (Pages 15 - 16)

Other articles from this issue | Version in English | Version in French

Educational imperatives after the shoah
Arij A. Roest Crollius


Speaking of education as a process which guides and accompanies the stages of growth, which conducts persons to responsible freedom, and which helps people develop the creative capacity of inventing and producing new realities, Dr. Crollius insisted that the very serious nature of the Shoah renders the educational imperative an ethical imperative. Since university education, in many nations, is a privileged tract of the education process, priorities become imperatives since the privileged situation entails a heavy responsibility, not only for the students and teachers, but also with regard to the society that supports them and which they are called to serve. Dr. Crollius identified the following five educational imperatives in university education:

1. The first element without which university education after the Shoah would be meaningless is humanity. In the common religious and cultural tradition of Jews and Christians, the human person is center and crown of creation, “little less than the elohim,” “created in the image of God.” There is no other sacred scripture that takes human beings so in earnest. Yet more basic is being. Being has a sense, direction and destination. For the only reason-endowed being on earth, sense and meaning are not just imposed, but are to be discovered. Humans have to make sense of their existence. Majesty and purpose that exceed human comprehension are what is most human. It is an educational imperative to found the pursuit of knowledge and truth on the inner purpose and logos of being, and to put it at the service of that being “crowned with glory and majesty” which is each human person. The Shoah, as a plan of annihilation, is a revolt against being, and as annihilation of human beings, a revolt against humanity. It is the perversion of humans who lived in the illusion of being Übermenschen and set out to eradicate what is truly human. Very concretely, this imperative requires that universities set up programs of research and teaching in ontology and ethics in order to clarify and formulate educational material on the human person and its unique value.

2. Interdisciplinary research and study on the roots of antisemitism and antijudaism must be promoted. History is especially important, but also psychology, sociology, theology and cultural anthropology. The Shoah must be studied in its vicious and perverse context during the German Nazi Reich. But also throughout human history, the violence of humans against humans has to be studied in its expressions, reasons and motives. The roots of violence, as well as of today’s terrorism, are not easy to fathom.

3. University education must be attentive to a care for the collective memory of that part of humanity which has lived the Shoah. Tendencies in today’s sociocultural developments that make such a collective memory highly precarious include: the process of globalization which expands the horizons of human awareness and today’s events to a degree which easily has a superficializing effect on the minds of people; the media of social communication, guided by the principle of bringing the latest news, which causes events to rapidly fade away in the mists of the past; an increase of people working as technicians in complex industries and administrations, which makes the care for a collective memory appear as an oddity.

4. Because of the doctrinal, cultural and historical links between Islam and the Jewish and Christian communities, the recent spread of Islam and the renewed affirmation of its presence in many parts of the globe calls for a serious study of ‘monotheism and conflict’ - which can also contribute to formulating operative principles for the role of religion in the establishment of durable peace.

5. In the light of the Shoah the university educational environment has become a chosen place for academic collaboration between Jewish and Christian scholars, researchers and students. There is an increasing Muslim participation in this. Perhaps the time is ripe for the foundation of a truly “Mediterranean University” - a genuine albeit modest Universitas studentium et magistrorum with a certain stabliltiy. Since universal perspectives are proper to the Mediterranean mind, it would not be limited to people from the Mediterranean countries. Holding before itself the text of the Declaration of the Vocation to Humanism of the Mediterranean Peoples (Mediterranean Congress in Bari, 1982) it would enable us “to read anew and together the documents of our history in order to rethink them in common and thus to overcome existing political divergences and oppositions in an intercultural dialogue founded upon the sense and the esteem of the human person.”

Professor Dr. Arij A. Roest Crollius, SJ is professor of history and theology of religions at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome where he also directs the Centre for Cultures and Religions and the Interfaculty Programme of Judaic Studies.


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