By Tami Kamin Meyer
The need for Holocaust education and awareness in the American schools system is dire, the time is now for Holocaust education in American schools according to William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
“At a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise in the United States and around the world, and the memory of the Holocaust is at risk of fading from the collective consciousness, comprehensive Holocaust education is more important now than ever. The lessons of the Holocaust must not be forgotten; future generations must be quipped to build a society free from hatred. We must ensure that students throughout America’s schools learn the critical teachings of the Holocaust,” summed Daroff.
Nearly half as many people have been killed by COVID-19 worldwide as Jews killed in the Holocaust. While the deaths of nearly three million people who lives were snuffed by the virus thus far is a debilitating statistic to ponder, medical science has pinned its hopes on defeating COVID-19 on breakthrough vaccinations. Unfortunately, however, there is no inoculation known to man capable of overcoming the worrisome and dramatic uptick in anti-Semitic incidents and crimes the past few years.
Meanwhile, the lack of knowledge among millennials and Gen Z regarding the atrocities Jews and others suffered at the hands of the Nazis during World War II is alarming. According to the U.S. Millennial Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey, the first-ever 50-state study on Holocaust awareness among those two demographics, a vast void exists in the foundational knowledge they possess about the Holocaust.
For example, one finding of the survey, released in September 2020 by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference)showed 63 percent of all national respondents did not realize six million Jews were killed during World War II.
In announcing the results of the survey, Gideon Taylor, President of the Claims Conference, said 36 percent of respondents erroneously believed two million or fewer Jews actually lost their lives to Nazi atrocities. Moreover, while there were more than 40,000 death camps, concentration camps and ghettos in Europe during the Holocaust, nearly half of survey participants could not name a single one.
Mandatory Holocaust education in the US
Currently, 17 states require Holocaust education in their public-school classrooms.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
Meanwhile, politicians and activists in other states have been making strides towards requiring Holocaust education in public schools within their jurisdictions. For example, during the 41st annual Ohio Governor’s Holocaust Commemoration held virtually on April 8, the state’s governor pledged his total support for Holocaust education in public schools in the Buckeye State.
But Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine took his commitment one step further. He also promised to fully fund the Ohio Holocaust ,Genocide Memorial & Education Commission to implement its programming statewide. DeWine’s announcement was fully endorsed by Ohio House Speaker Robert Cupp Ohio and Senate President Matt Huffman. In their remarks at the Holocaust Commemoration, both Huffman and Cupp pledged to monetize the commission to make it a reality.
In a related development, the results of the US Millennial Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey recently led lawmakers in Arkansas to introduce legislation mandating Holocaust education in its public schools beginning in the 2021-22 academic year. The study revealed only 17% of Arkansas’s millennials and Gen Z citizens met what is labeled “Holocaust knowledge criteria,” defined by the ability to identify the Holocaust, name one concentration camp, death camp or ghetto and acknowledging six million Jews were exterminated during WWII.
Educating people about the atrocities of the Holocaust is the mission of the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Education Center (HHC) in Cincinnati. The organization, celebrating its 20th anniversary, relocated from a smaller space to the Queen City’s Union Terminal in 2019. According to Jodi Elowitz, Director of Education and Engagement at the HHC, opening a facility in that historic structure brings the city’s Holocaust story full circle. That’s because when Jews and others made their way to Cincinnati to start new lives following WWII, Union Terminal was then the city’s train station where they first arrived.
There is no doubt in Elowitz’s mind that Holocaust education leaves an impact on its audience. She recalled the comment of a high school teacher from Jackson City, Ohio, who had brought her students to the museum. According to Elowitz, the teacher reported that since that tour, the teens had been displaying “kindness and empathy” towards one another.
Elowitz is optimistic about Holocaust education even in states that don’t mandate it. She says that does not necessarily mean students in jurisdictions like Ohio, where it is not yet mandatory, are not learning about WWII atrocities. “Even if a state has not mandated Holocaust education, does not mean it isn’t being taught effectively. While it is great some states mandate (Holocaust education), teachers still need training in american schools. We are here to help when and if Ohio mandates it,” said Elowitz, noting Buckeye State neighbors Kentucky and Indiana do require the curriculum.
Even Facebook has gotten involved in the move to educate the populace of the horrors of the Holocaust, banning all posts denying the Holocaust in October 2020. However, it seems the social media giant hasn’t been successful in removing all hate speech from its confines. According to a recent USA Today story, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has not ensured all those comments have been erased from his site. Some people opine his expressed attitudes about the Holocaust border on questioning its validity, although in 2020 he announced his views had evolved.
About Author Tami Kamin Meyer
Tami Kamin Meyer is a regular columnist for Bashert Book Press. Tami is also the Editor of Write Now Columbus, an e-newsletter regarding the literary scene in Columbus, Ohio. She is Marketing Chair of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and a Member of the Columbus Bar Association’s Board of Editors. In addition to writing and editing, she is a licensed and practicing attorney. Her byline has appeared in Forbes, MarketWatch, Cannabis & Tech Today, Columbus Jewish News and more. Tami is also an award-winning Hebrew school teacher who has traveled to Israel 13 times. She tweets as @girlwithapen.
Bashert Books Press Release
Bashert Books Press has just released a book that can significantly help bring Holocaust studies into the classroom. The book includes the play script of the acclaimed and award-winning one-man play Wiesenthal by Tom Dugan.
Simon Wiesenthal was a Holocaust survivor who was known as the Jewish James bond for his role in tirelessly locating over 1,000 Nazi war criminals who were brought to justice. He is best known for his role in the location and capture of Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the “Final Solution,” leading to the murder of 6 million Jews.
Wiesenthal is an excellent choice for Holocaust education because it includes a carefully crafted study guide for students, and Wiesenthal’s message was one of inclusion and tolerance. The message is clear: although the Jews are like the canaries in a coal mine, warning of trouble, genocide can happen to any group if we are not vigilant.
Cardinal Publishers Group distributes the book, and it is available for bulk sales through your local wholesalers. .”