BVB, the German Football Museum and four local companies are launching a unique educational programme for apprentices.

Education doesn't just mean giving young people the tools they need for their working lives. Education also means instilling in them a democratic attitude and core social values. A number of Dortmund companies have now joined forces in a unique partnership. Under the title "From Dortmund to Auschwitz," they are offering their apprentices an educational programme against anti-Semitism and racism, which runs over several modules and months. The centrepiece is a one-week educational trip to Auschwitz.

This is a pilot project, and participation is voluntary, but all those involved have expressed a desire to make the initial offering a permanent and regular educational unit. The participants are: Borussia Dortmund (BVB), Dortmunder Stadtwerke AG (DSW21), Dortmunder Energie- und Wasserversorgung GmbH (DEW21), EDG Entsorgung Dortmund GmbH, Dortmunder Gesellschaft für Abfall mbH (DOGA) and the German Football Museum (DFM). The Steinwache Memorial and the Anti-Discrimination Counseling and Intervention Against Anti-Semitism and Racism (ADIRA) are also on board as partners.

The starting point for the project was the existing partnership between DSW21/DEW21, BVB and the football museum. Borussia Dortmund have been offering similar educational programmes and seminar trips for fans and employees for many years. Addressing the persecution of Jewish people in football during the Nazi dictatorship is also an area of focus in the DFM's educational programme.

"Racism occurs in many aspects of our day-to-day lives, and there has also been a resurgence of anti-Semitism recently. It is our shared mission to work resolutely and consequently against these tendencies," says Harald Kraus, working director of DSW21. "It is beyond unacceptable that anti-vaxxers have worn Jewish stars with the inscription 'Covid' at their demonstrations, thereby drawing comparisons between the current measures to fight the pandemic and the murder of millions of Jews, Sinti and Roma.''

Borussia Dortmund's CEO, Hans-Joachim Watzke, echoes this point: "Remembering the Holocaust and fighting anti-Semitism are important issues for BVB. Reaching out to younger colleagues in this partnership now represents an important addition to our activities."

Heike Heim, chair of the DEW21 management board, adds: "We actively promote a diverse and educated society in which there is no place for racism and anti-Semitism. All members in this partnership stand up for shared democratic values, such as justice, equality and solidarity. We want to further strengthen and promote these values within the framework of the educational project. For us, this is a very important social responsibility that we are fully committed to.''

EDG's employment director, Bastian Prange, emphasises: "For us, educating young people also ties in with a wider social mission. We want to encourage reflection on social injustices and teach important values. In light of Germany's past and, unfortunately, it's present, it is an absolute must that we give our apprentices the opportunity to deal intensively with anti-Semitism and racism in an educational context.''

"Remembrance work is not something just for memorial days. It has to take place every day, because it concerns us all," says Manuel Neukirchner, director of the German Football Museum. "That's why everyday we use football's popular appeal to teach attitudes and values; for example, in workshops for school classes and through 'Niemals vergessen' (Never forget) - an online encyclopaedia of Jewish footballers who suffered persecution. I am pleased that we are joining forces in this important endeavour and contributing to this unique cooperation by providing content and acting as a place of encounter."

The educational project "From Dortmund to Auschwitz" has as its motto: ''Remember - Learn - Exchange''. It began on Monday, 21 February, with a full-day kick-off at the Football Museum. Another module focuses on anti-Semitism. Where does it come from? What does the term even mean? What prejudices are linked to it and how can they be countered?

Before the students leave for Oświęcim - the Polish name for Auschwitz - in May, they will learn the historical basics in Dortmund, go in search of clues and study the lives and fates of Jews, Sinti and Roma who were deported from Dortmund and murdered by the Nazis in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

One thing became clear at the launch of the project: both students and teachers have a demanding project ahead of them, and they may find themselves in emotionally-challenging situations. There is a great sense of respect for the matter at hand. And no small bit of curiosity too.

Photo: During a kick-off event at the German Football Museum, the participating students got to know each other and learned about the history and fate of Jewish footballers during the Nazi dictatorship.