Bitola, Macedonia, Sept. 6th to 17th, 2016
We are looking forward to welcome you(th) living in Macedonia and Germany joining us in this exciting project that deals with the complex and often forgotten histories of the Balkans and Europe. Together with our local and international partners and volunteers we want to revitalize the historical Jewish cemetery in Bitola to promote peace, remembrance and understanding. The long abandoned cemetery was destroyed by the German Wehrmacht on their retreat and is today a silent witness of the once large and flourishing Jewish community of Bitola that was wiped out almost completely by German and Bulgarian occupying forces during WWII. The workcamp activities will include workshops, field trips and lectures on Dealing with the Past, (Jewish) History in the Balkans, etc. held by expert trainers and researchers.
Bitola, Macedonia. All participating volunteers will be accommodated together in a hotel in the city and provided with three meals per day.
When? Sept. 6th - 17th, 2016 (incl. 1 day for arrival and 1 day for departure)
For participants coming from Macedonia, costs for travelling by public transport to Bitola will be reimbursed. All expenses for accommodation, food and travel on site for project purposes will be covered.
Please fill out the application form until August 1st, 2016, and send it to the two emails below. Selection of project participants will be made by the organizers based on motivation and interest of the applicants. We additionally seek for balance and diversity within the group in terms of professional, gender, national/religious/ethnic, etc. backgrounds.
What is it all about?
The project will take place in Bitola, in south-western Macedonia. The country’s second largest city is a border town with its roots nestled in antiquity. Situated on trade routes which used to link Europe with the Orient throughout many centuries, the city had been a busy intersection in which members with different religious, cultural and national backgrounds have made their homes. The Jewish cemetery, which is considered to be the oldest and largest of its kind in the Balkans, testifies for the large Jewish community that lived here for almost five centuries. At the same time, it testifies for this community’s attrition as a consequence of the devastating blows that the city has suffered with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Balkan Wars and WWI. The cemetery ceased functioning in March 1943 when the devastation of the Holocaust completely wiped out the local Jewish community. Despite its immense cultural, educational and economic potential, the Jewish cemetery in Bitola is completely abandoned and neglected.
In 2015, a local initiative was started to revitalize the cemetery to create a memorial park named “Home of the living memories”. The overall objectives behind the idea are to transform the neglected and abandoned historical site into a meeting point of remembrance of the past and for perspectives towards the future welfare of all, to revive the cosmopolitan spirit of Bitola and to publically promote values of understanding and peace, i.a. by using artistic and hi-tech means for the design and (re-)construction. Our youth workcamp intends to contribute to developing an inclusive culture of remembrance and supports the initiative to create a memorial park.
Workcamps are the most common form of short-term volunteering, where a group of volunteers work and live together on a project which has been identified by a local community or working with that community. International work camps bring together volunteers from different nationalities and backgrounds, aiming at building up international understanding and therefore encouraging peace.
Our workcamp project will involve 20 young participants from Germany and Macedonia, with diverse backgrounds. Together with other local and international volunteers and support of trained staff, the group will jointly engage in daily archeological work to preserve and renovate a part of the cemetery. In addition, participants will participate in special workshops and excursions, e.g. to the Holocaust Memorial Center in the capital Skopje, to learn more about the (Jewish) history in Bitola and the Balkans, Dealing with the Past, Nonviolent Conflict Transformation, Intercultural Learning, etc. Moreover, our idea is to produce a short documentary with the help of motivated participants. Last but not least, the youth workcamp intends to stimulate exchange amongst participants about different approaches of remembrance of the past and diversity in general and to connect to youth activists from Bitola.
We will make sure to have enough time for fun stuff, recreation and cultural activities to round up an exciting and rewarding experience for everybody. As a cultural highlight, the famous Manaki Brothers Film Festival will take place right on time when we are going to stay in Bitola.
Who are we?
We are four partnering organisations from Macedonia and Germany jointly organizing this project. You can find out more about us by visiting our facebook pages: Youth Cultural Center - Bitola (YCC - Bitola) | Forum Civil Peace Service (forumZFD Macedonia) | Holocaust Fund for the Jews of Macedonia (HFJM) | pax christi Aachen
Please send us an email or call us and we will be happy to answer