Four vaulted underground rooms built as shelter by Nazi German occupation forces in the foundations of Anatolia College’s historic Macedonia Hall, located at the Thessaloniki suburb of Pylea in northern Greece, will be used for experiential learning workshops for students aged 10-12, the college announced on Monday.
The pupils will participate in interactive ways and acquire a sense of the historical events aided by digital technology, the college said.
Anatolia College, a private, non-profit educational institution, was occupied by the German army between 1941-1944 which used it as its Balkan headquarters. It then included the adjacent land – presently the Agios Dimitrios Children’s Health Center – and the very spot where General Georgios Tsolakoglou came to sign the capitulation and surrender agreement of the Greek army to Wehrmacht forces on April 20, 1941.
Some of the subterranean rooms were used as a bomb shelter and others to store classified documents as well as confiscated valuables from residents of the area.
“How can the story of 80 schoolchildren, who along with their parents and their teachers were killed at Nazi concentration camps, possibly be put on paper?” wondered Panos Vlachos, president of Anatolia College. Vlachos elaborated on the project’s drive as an attempt to “bridge the time gap and bring history to new generations,” pointing out that “every place has a memory, every land has a story to tell, but there are places burdened by so-called history’s ‘heavy loads’ (…) where the past is still very much present.”
The key idea behind the project is the management of collective memory and the intake of history by the younger generations, who are distanced, temporally and emotionally, from major historic events, said Vlachos, who expanded on the idea during a recent conference titled ‘Filling the Void: Studying and Transferring History to a New Generation’, organized by Anatolia College and the German Consulate in Thessaloniki at the Bissell Library American College of Thessaloniki, one of the largest private learning resource centers in Southeast Europe, itself a division of the College.
Moving this idea from theory to practice was discussed at the conference, said Vlachos, while academics and scientists from Germany and Greece looked into the reality of ‘occupation’ as the catalyst for historic events in northern Greece, and also talked about how to design such a monument, and also looked into the question of whether modern technology can sufficiently substitute for a real-time experience of history.