Between the year 1933 and the year 1945, over 6 million Jewish people were murdered in what is now widely referred to as the Holocaust. The question has always been asked, how was something so atrocious, so cruel and so diabolical “allowed” to happen? The Holocaust is one of, if not the greatest, instance of mass genocide our world has ever known. And lately, hardly anyone talks about it. The Holocaust is “a thing of the past”. Yet the valuable lessons and skills that come with teaching about the Holocaust are crucial to a well-functioning society. By implementing Holocaust education in our statewide curriculum, we would prevent future genocides from taking place, while teaching students important life skills along the way. . And moreover, we would ensure that the lives brutally taken from millions of innocent people would not be forgotten. As esteemed author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel once said, “to forget the dead would be to kill them a second time.” And we will not forget the dead.
Several studies have been conducted with the aim of discovering the many mental and social benefits of a structured Holocaust curriculum. One of the most significant findings is that Holocaust education, as reported on unesco.org, highlights “aspects of human behavior that affect all societies… (including) the roles that fear, peer pressure, indifference…and resentment can play out in society…relationships.” Learning these characteristics at a young age is crucial to developing lasting communication and critical thinking skills. younger generations about the effects of peer pressure in social situations, students would be more likely to stand up for themselves and report any potential bullying or discrimination they might witness.
Mass genocides usually stem from widespread manipulation and coercion. Teaching students the simple lessons that come with standardized Holocaust education could mean the difference between future ostracization of different minority groups. Not only would Holocaust education reduce onlookers, it would help students recognize dangerous propaganda. At the start of the Second World War, European populations, and especially German ones, were extremely sensitive to anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi propaganda. It was easy to blame the daily hardships of the Jewish population when their own government pointed the finger and printed these same lies everywhere. By learning key analytical thinking skills, people would be more likely to slow down and accurately interpret certain types of propaganda. Several sources, including tnholocom.org, support this view, stating that students would “learn to identify danger signals and…know when and how to react.” Being able to recognize the warning signs that accompany impending dictatorial actions would give people the time to resist that past generations lacked. Providing our youth with a Holocaust-focused education would reduce the risk of repeat genocide and help prevent future generations from suffering at the hands of discriminatory dictatorships.
If history has taught us anything, it’s that difficult times elicit different responses from different people. The Holocaust was an unspeakable act of horror that left millions dead, but for those who perished there were thousands who survived with courageous stories of empathy and bravery. Small actions, whispered advice, shared rations and kind exchanges are just a few simple acts that inspired hope and perseverance in Holocaust victims. And more than half a century later, we can still learn and be inspired by those who were tortured so long ago.
About 10 years ago, a small college in Tennessee took on a massive project. Collecting over 30 million paperclips, they filled a train car to represent those imprisoned and murdered by the Nazi regime, inspired by stories of survivors to make a difference in their community. The headmistress of the college said “the paper clips project (had) been an affirmation of (her) beliefs that education is absolutely essential for change”. Teaching about the Holocaust goes far beyond teaching simple history. Teaching about the Holocaust inspires students and teachers to make a difference in their communities and in their world. If more people knew about the effects that simple, kind actions could have on those around them, our world would become a safer and more caring place. As Linda Hooper said, education is necessary for change.
Speaking of change, as our world moves into the 21st century, diversity is becoming extremely prevalent. Different religions, races and orientations make up the world’s population. However, the idea of ”different” has always been the basis of hatred and discrimination in society. Anti-Semitism, an act of hostility and prejudice against the Jewish people, was one of the root causes of the Holocaust. Educating young students about the Holocaust and surrounding events would build tolerance and acceptance for future generations. Multiple surveys were conducted with this theory in mind, and the results published on ednote.ecs.org clearly showed that students who studied the Holocaust “were more willing to challenge incorrect or biased information and to resist negative stereotypes”. Our world is filled with different people from a multitude of different backgrounds and that’s a fact that should be celebrated, not oppressed. No matter what god we worship, no matter who we love, and no matter what color our skin is, we are all humans who deserve respect and common decency. Educating students about the Holocaust would not only foster this truth, but cement it for generations to come.
There really are no words that can accurately describe the horrors of the Holocaust. No words can explain the lives lost, and no words can mend the demons of the past. Yet if states across the country, and eventually around the world, implemented Holocaust education in their curriculum, future Holocaust-like horrors would be averted, students would learn to be more empathetic and tolerant, and we would be one step closer to building a less divided world.