Why We Must Not Cancel the Holocaust

I read a disturbing statistic on Twitter the other day – that almost 24% of young people in the United States either don’t believe the Holocaust ever happened, aren’t sure, or think its traumatic impact has been exaggerated. 2/3 of Americans between the ages of 18 and 39 have no idea that 6 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis.

You can learn more about the study in this article from The Guardian. If these statistics don’t bother you, then you may be someone who thinks we should leave the past and move forward. You may find it offensive to see constant references to the Holocaust and prefer to keep it out of your social media timeline. You may find people who continue to bring up the Holocaust objectionable for not being able to leave it where it belongs – in distant history.

You may want to cancel it.

So, in this week’s anti-racist post I want to address why you shouldn’t. If you are an educator, you can’t just leave out the Holocaust or assign a few pages in a textbook and be done.

In her Newbery Acceptance Speech for The Giver in 1994, Lois Lowry told of a time she had answered a question from someone in a previous audience.

“A woman raises her hand. When the turn for her question comes, she
sighs very loudly and says, ‘Why do we have to tell this Holocaust thing over and over? Is it really necessary?’ I answer her as well as I can – quoting, in fact, my German daughter-in-law, who has said to me, ‘No one knows better than we Germans that we must tell this again and again.’
But I think about her question – and my answer – a great deal.
Wouldn’t it, I think, playing Devil’s Advocate to myself, make for a more
comfortable world to forget the Holocaust? And I remember once again how comfortable, familiar and safe my parents had sought to make my childhood by shielding me from ELSEWHERE. But I remember, too, that my response had been to open the gate again and again. My instinct had been a child’s attempt to see for myself what lay beyond the wall.”

In a video that you can find on Facing History, Holocaust survivor and poet, Ava Schieber, speaks to a group of 7th graders. One asks her, “Did you think you were going to survive?” Ava replies that she knew she had to survive, and says:

As the Holocaust becomes more faint, as more survivors are no longer here to give us their first-hand accounts of the horrors they witnessed, it may become tempting to allow the memories to fade. But if we do not learn from the mistakes that led to these atrocities, we will be doomed to commit them again – in fact we may already be close to doing so.

There are many resources on Facing History and Teaching Tolerance for educating young people about the Holocaust.

And if you think that time was so different from what is happening in the world today, I want to leave you with one more quote from Ava Schieber when a student asked her if she regretted the time she had lost while hiding during the Holocaust:

Here are my previous anti-racism posts in case you have missed them:

Also, for more amazing anti-racism resources, check out the Live Binder curated by Joy Kirr.

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