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Cultural History programme

Internship

Internship: Catholic Council for Church and Judaism

By Rik Mets

 

In January 2016 I started as an intern at the Catholic Council for Church and Judaism (Katholieke Raad voor Kerk en Jodendom). I came across the vacancy at the website for internships of the University of Utrecht and it caught my immediate attention, since it combined several of my interests.

 

Every three years the Catholic Church organizes the World Youth Days. Last times they had been in Rio de Janairo, but last summer they would be in Krakow, Poland. Two to three million young Catholics from all over the world were expected there, among whom fifteen hundred from The Netherlands. An optional part of the World Youth Days would be a visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

 

The Catholic Council for Church and Judaism deals with the Catholic-Jewish relations and has done so since shortly after World War II. From this background came the idea to start a project that would prepare the young Dutch Catholics for the visit to Auschwitz. That was my job. I made contact with the dioceses in The Netherlands and offered them to give a workshop or a presentation about the history of Auschwitz and the importance of the place for the present day. From March to July I have given several of these presentations to participants of the journey or their supervisors, mostly priests.

 

During these presentations I emphasised the role the Catholic Church played in European antisemitism in the years leading up to the Holocaust and the part the Church tried to play during the Holocaust. Using this historical background, I tried to make them think about modern day racism and discrimination.

 

I found this internship a valuable addition to the master programme, because I was able to use and enrich my knowledge of the Holocaust and turn this into something that would help young people understand what has happened at Auschwitz. As I am currently doing an internship as a history teacher at Cals College in Nieuwegein, I again find myself talking about WWII and the Holocaust with my students. My previous internship has helped me finding better ways to teach this subject.

 

On top of that, I gained experience in working on a project in which I had to find my own way. Every presentation was different from the one before, because I constantly learned more about the historical background and ways to create a link to the present day. I have travelled all over The Netherlands to the different dioceses and came in contact with countless people. The internship has strengthened my confidence in working as my own man and in speaking for large audiences. I still benefit daily from that experience.