By Cody Fuelling ‘17
For my Fulbright grant, I conducted a nine-month independent study on the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg with regards to its memory of genocides and other mass atrocities. The Holocaust was of particular interest, as was Srebrenica, due to the sizable Bosnian, Albanian, and Croatian populations within the country.
To do this, I studied the immigration and naturalization policies of the country, its policy towards refugees and asylum seekers, and literature on Luxembourgish identity, memory, and Resistance during WWII. Because the population of Luxembourg today is 49 percent foreign-born, some of these topics were particularly interesting.
Because education is one way to reduce the number of potential genocides, a sizable amount of the research focused on the secondary education system in Luxembourg. I interviewed 15 history teachers, asking them about their teaching methods, which topics (mass atrocities) they chose to include in their curricula, what reactions they get from students and parents, and if they choose to teach refugee students differently, among other questions. All respondents said they teach about the Holocaust, which was not surprising, considering the thorough amount of WWII and Holocaust memorialization that exists in the country.
Speaking with these and others, it was clear that the Nazi occupation of Luxembourg was the flashpoint for modern Luxembourgish national identity. As the proportion of foreign-born persons rises, so does the desire to enshrine this part of Luxembourgish history. Tensions and notions of nationalism rise as well, although in versions far less extreme than can be identified in other parts of Europe.
Most intriguingly, five of the 15 interviewed said that they no longer teach about Srebrenica or the Yugoslav Wars because of the national tensions that exist among their student populations. Students, they said, would break into verbal and physical fights when these issues came up. Many refused to respect the teacher’s authority over the classroom, and some students displayed “dangerous speech” with regards to other groups from former Yugoslavia. There were multiple reports of Muslim male students disrespecting teachers because they were females. As a result, the teachers eliminated this from their curricula in the early 2000s, but many teachers do not want to re-install it because now they are teaching the children of some of their former students.
I presented my findings at the Belgium-Luxembourg Fulbright Commission and University of Luxembourg.
After completing my Fulbright grant, I returned to Purdue Fort Wayne as an education outreach coordinator at Purdue Fort Wayne’s Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. I also work for the university’s Honors Program and the Political Science Department. While working for the university, I am gaining genocide research and awareness experience before enrolling in graduate school programs on conflict prevention and peacekeeping. Ultimately, I aspire to help lead U.S. policy on the prevention of, responses to, and accountability for mass atrocities.
Since returning to Purdue Fort Wayne, I have founded the university’s chapter of Students Taking Action Now: Darfur (STAND), a student organization that rallies peers and community members to spread awareness of and take measures to end mass atrocities. Purdue Fort Wayne students with any interest in world events, national politics, or student mobilization can email me about exploring STAND.
It’s all too easy to ignore atrocities, and we must act together.