Young People Think Holocaust Education is Important

Posted on 10/16/2020 @ 08:00 AM

Tags: March of the Living

The article below was adapted from one that originally appeared on October 2, 2020, in Cincinnati.com|The Enquirer.

A survey released earlier this month found that 80% of millennial respondents believe it is important to continue teaching about the Holocaust.
 
While this aspect of the survey reflects a willingness and commitment to learn from the past on the part of millennials, the general public and media chose to focus on different aspects of the survey – like the fact that almost two-thirds of millennials and Gen Zers do not know that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, and almost half do not know the name of any concentration camp.
 
Social media erupted with comments calling young Americans’ lack of knowledge, "stunning," "disappointing," and "a shameful example of how ignorant and insensitive Americans have become."
 
The survey, commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, compounded by recent incidents of Holocaust denial on Facebook and the trivialization of survivors on Tik Tok, paints a depressing picture. Will our younger generations fail to ensure the lessons of the Holocaust are remembered in the decades to come?

As the chief executive officer of the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center, I feel – like so many others – the deep and sobering concern that our country is teetering toward a state where antisemitism and hate-crime incidents are widely tolerated. While these types of surveys and the lack of Holocaust knowledge should be cause for concern, I believe wholeheartedly that young people want to learn from the past and create a better future.
 
I have been doing this work for more than 15 years, and as the Holocaust & Humanity Center prepares to commemorate its 20th anniversary later this month, here is what I know: The lessons of one of the darkest chapters of humanity are not lost on young Americans.
 
Another survey, published just two weeks ago by Echoes & Reflections, found that college students who learned about the Holocaust in high school reported a greater willingness to challenge intolerant behavior in others and showed higher critical thinking skills and a greater sense of social responsibility and civic efficacy.
 
We know this fingding to be true locally. Throughout the years, I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of area educators who share compelling stories about the impact of Holocaust education on their students… 

There is work to do, but Holocaust education is effective and young people believe it is important. It is up to all of us to ensure the next generation learns from the lessons of the past. While we need to encourage school systems to include Holocaust education within their curriculums, we can also take personal ownership over our own learning experiences...
 
Before her passing, local Holocaust survivor Lusia Hornstein said, "I owe it to all those who did not survive to tell the story." We owe it to Lusia to carry these stories forward and ensure that future generations do the same.
 
Sarah L. Weiss is chief executive officer of the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center.