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Holocaust Remembrance Day
2021-01-27

            January 27 was Holocaust Remembrance Day.  A day designated by the United Nations General Assembly to mark the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. The day was set aside to honor the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and millions of other victims of Nazism and to develop educational programs to help prevent future genocides.

            Some countries maintain laws that require presenting information concerning actions of the of the German government regarding Jews and others in its territory during the period of their control by the National Socialist (Nazi) German Worker's Party and their collaborators from 1933 to 1945.

            The genocide campaign targeted groups believed by Adolf Hitler's government to be biologically inferior because of anti-Semitism, homophobia or the like. Using tactics like gas wagons, concentration camps and firing squads, the regime targeted its victims for annihilation.

            As survivors of the Holocaust dwindle each year, it is important to teach about it because Americans have fundamental gaps in their knowledge of its history. 

            A 2018 survey by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany reported that many believe that something like the Holocaust could happen again, and believed that Holocaust education is important.

            Gaps of knowledge were especially found among people between the ages of 18 and 34.  Some said they had not heard of, or were unsure if they had heard of the Holocaust.   Older age groups fared much better in their knowledge of the Holocaust.

            Lily Rothman of the Conference was quoted as saying, "We say 'Never Forget,' but the people who were murdered are literally being forgotten as we speak."

            A 50-state survey by the same group in 2020 showed an increasing lack of knowledge of the Holocaust.  Sixty-three percent of those surveyed between the ages of 18 and 34 did not know that 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.  Over 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos were established during World War II, but nearly half of U.S. respondents could not name a single one.

            Recent reports of elected officials showing and spewing anti-Semitism, reports of high-level government appointments of people with an anti-Semitic past, as well as protestors sporting t-shirts emblazened with "Camp Auschwitz" and "6MWE" (6 million were not enough) are just a few examples of how much work we have to do.

            To date, only 16 states require Holocaust education in their schools.  Pennsylvania encourages Holocaust education.

            Last week, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged coordinated global action on Monday to build an alliance against the growth and spread of anti-Semitism and hate speech sparked partly by the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the pandemic "has exacerbated longstanding injustices and divisions.  

            Guterres called for stepped up education on Nazi actions during World War II, stressing that almost two-thirds of young Americans do not know that six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust.  He added that fragmentation of the traditional media and the growth of social media are contributing to the absence of shared facts.

            Ninety-year-old Rabbi Arthur Schneier, a Holocaust survivor recently was quoted as saying, "This guiding principle - memory not amnesia - is a moral imperative to quell the rise of hate, which is greater today than at any time since the end of World War II … Children are not born with hatred; they are taught how to hate."


 

 

 

 

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