The Holocaust is one of the most important events in modern history; it should never be forgotten. Leaving approximately six million Jewish people dead, the Holocaust serves as a reminder that we as people need to do better in the face of injustice and ensure that a horrific genocide like this never happens again. Unfortunately, Holocaust education is not a national requirement, leaving only about 16 out 50 states to require it as part of the schools’ curriculum. This poses a problem in that lack of education regarding the Holocaust could grow in each generation, making it fade away into an event only mentioned once in a while in history classes. People need to understand how the Holocaust only began with propaganda which very soon turned into actions, not unlike what happened over three weeks ago at the Capitol. Holocaust education must be a national requirement, as it would teach students to never stand silent in the face of injustice, as you never know how it will end.
With 34 states not mandating Holocaust education as part of the school curriculum, it comes as a further disappointment when a survey, published last September, revealed shocking results. According to the survey, about 63 percent of millennials and Gen Z in the U.S. do not even know that six million Jewish people died, and nearly half could not name a single concentration camp or ghetto (not even Auschwitz). What is even worse is that three percent of those respondents denied the Holocaust even occured, while 11 percent believe the Jews caused the Holocaust. These numbers may seem low, but the fact that anyone could deny that a genocide happened, or that the victims themselves are to blame, is reprehensible. According to NBC, experts say that the survey produced that part of the blame lies with social media, as almost half of millennials and Gen Z have reported seeing Holocaust denial or distortion posts on various platforms. TikTok recently placed a ban on Holocaust denial after many users began denying the Holocaust ever happened.
Looking back on how I learned about the Holocaust, I can’t say the survey results are surprising. Throughout my entire schooling (elementary to high school), only two of my teachers went in depth about the Holocaust, and they weren’t history teachers. My eighth grade and tenth grade language arts teachers had students read books on the Holocaust and took the time to teach us and have discussions about the devastating event. Futhermore, my eighth grade teacher even showed us a movie based on the Holocaust and took us on a field trip to L.A’s Museum of Tolerance. My teacher showed us a documentary and had us do a project in which we would create a journal answering prompts in response to the book, Night. In comparison, my history teachers would either never touch on the subject, give it a brief glance, or only teach us enough to know the basics.
There is no denying that the Holocaust was a horrifying time in world history, with Nazis using inhumane tactics to kill and torture the Jewish, along with others deemed as ‘less than’ by Hitler. The fact that there is a decreasing amount of knowledge about it in the younger generations displays a failure to educate students about historical events that are still relevant to issues we face today. According to the Anti-Defamation League, there have been around 2,107 anti-Semitic attacks in the U.S. in just 2019 alone, which was a 12 percent increase from 2018. Of these attacks, 25 took place in Brooklyn which is home to Hasidic and Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities. The attacks also include a stabbing in a rabbi’s home in New York, and shootings in a California synagogue and a kosher grocery store in New Jersey. These anti-semitic attacks show us the importance of learning and understanding history, no matter how ugly it is. To this day, there are still neo-Nazis continuing to spew hatred and misinformation.
Holocaust education must become part of the school curriculum nationally in order to combat misinformation that younger generations no doubt find on social media. A survey found that students with Holocaust education tend to be more tolerant and accepting of those who are considered different than them and more likely to challenge incorrect and biased information, as well as standing up to negative stereotypes. Additionally, a trend on TikTok, that took place last year, had users portraying themselves as victims of the Holocaust. While it most likely had good intentions of honoring the victims, it quickly became another meaningless trend that was insenstive to the acutal victims of the Holocaust. Learning about the Holocaust, along with other genocides, can help in tackling racism and intolerance by educating students about the consequnces of words and actions. A recent example of this is the Capitol riot, a product of Trump’s lies and hateful rhetoric, in which many of the people present wore anti-Semitic shirts. Events like the Holocaust should never happen again; it is important to speak out against such injustices.
Genocides are inhumane and despicable. Yet, they still occur today. In China, abuse of human rights and possible genocide is happening against the Uighurs that live there. Just because these tragedies are not well-known, nor to the extent of the Holocaust, doesn’t mean they do not happen. The Holocaust teaches us important lessons on what hateful words and actions can bring about. It also teaches us the importance of identifying misinformation and challenging racist beliefs. As the number of Holocaust survivors that are left to tell their stories become fewer, it is up to us to pass on their stories and the lessons they carry. We must also speak out against injustices, like the situation in China and others around the world. This is why we must always remember the Holocaust, and not just for one day a year.
Featured Image: Courtesy of Bild Bundesarchiv / Creative Commons