University of Gothenburg

Mission: History and Democracy – Perspectives on study trips to Holocaust memorial sites

The purpose of the research project is to contribute knowledge within the international research field of Teaching and learning about the Holocaust (TLH). Four sub-studies highlight and problematize how the relationship between Holocaust education on the one hand and the school's democratic mission on the other is shaped in the practical work of teachers and students in preparing, implementing and following up study trips to Holocaust memorial sites. Although study trips are a frequent feature of Swedish schools, they are so far unexplored. The research project therefore also aims to generate new knowledge with practical relevance for teachers who conduct study trips to Holocaust memorial sites. In the research project, which culminates in a compilation thesis in pedagogical work, the study trips are placed in an educational science context.

The Holocaust is the only historical event that has generated its own international research field in educational science. One of the educational practices examined in the field is study trips to Holocaust memorial sites, an educational activity that means that it is now about as common for a Swedish teenager to have visited the state museum Auschwitz-Birkenau as it is for them to have been confirmed. The activity is not specifically regulated in the school's governing documents, but its emergence since the turn of the millennium can be understood as a grassroots movement driven by committed teachers and students.

The research project exploratively examines didactic content and strategies, and intellectual, emotional and social learning processes that develop in the pedagogical work with the study tours. Its knowledge contribution is generated through four qualitative empirical studies, which together address the following research questions:

  • What didactic content and teaching strategies are used in schools' work with study trips to Holocaust memorial sites, and how are these related to the stated aims of teaching about the Holocaust and the school's democratic mission in general, and knowledge about anti-Semitism in particular?
  • How do intellectual, emotional and social processes in learning about the Holocaust and democracy interact with the study tours?
  • Which discursive practices are made visible in the work with study tours?

The project uses critical discourse analysis (CDA) as its theoretical framework and methodological engine. This means that the work with the study tours is regarded as a TLH practice in a Swedish historical-cultural context, which is regulated by one or more discourse orders. The dissertation adds an analytical educational science perspective, by using the concepts of qualifying, socializing and person-forming to discuss how the work with the study tours takes advantage of different educational dimensions.

The empirical material consists of interviews with nine teachers with varying experiences of study trips and 49 students' written reflections written before, during and after two identical study trips. Furthermore, two case studies are included with interviews with teachers and students before and after two different study trips as field notes were generated through participant observation during the work with each study trip. By applying discourse analysis throughout, the thesis can show patterns and alternatives in teachers' and students' discursive practices. Thus, a tentative overview is generated of how knowledge of the Holocaust is formed and linked to democratic core values in the work with the study trips in the Swedish context.

The research project has so far generated the following three publications:

Article 1: Flennegård, O., & Mattsson, C. (2021). Teaching at Holocaust memorial sites: Swedish teachers’ understanding of the educational values of visiting Holocaust memorial sites. Power and Education, 13(1), 43–57.

Article 2: Flennegård, O., & Mattsson, C. (2023). Democratic pilgrimage: Swedish students' understanding of study trips to Holocaust memorial sites. Educational Review, 75(3), 429–446.

Article 3: Flennegård, O. (2022). Creating a youth ambassador: a critical study of a Swedish project on teaching and learning about the Holocaust. Holocaust Studies. Published online 2022-10-25.



Founding (partly)
Stiftelsen Natur & Kultur

Project time

Participating institutions and researcher
Ola Flennegård, PhD-student, The Segerstedt Institute, Department of Education, Communication and Learning, University of Gothenburg