It’s often been said that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.
What the people who quote that statement don’t often say, however, is what exactly the consequences are of repeating history. Without a tangible consideration of how repeating history affects society or individuals, the phrase is nothing more than something pithy to say at parties.
When it comes to failing to know the history of the Holocaust, the impact on our world could be horrific.
The lesson of the Holocaust is a lesson in inhumanity.
It’s a lesson in the dangers of allowing hate and racism to ferment and thrive.
It’s a lesson in what can happen when societies ignore the warning signs that once allowed 6 million Jews to be murdered by a madman as scapegoats in the name of ethnic purity and nationalism.
When new generations aren’t made aware of the atrocities, when the pictures and stories and voices of the dead and their survivors fade away into the past, there’s a real danger of this happening again. Maybe not just to others next time, but to us.
But polls taken in the past several years show an alarming lack of knowledge about this time in history.
The Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Study, conducted in 2018 by The Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, found that 22 percent of those age 18-35, the so-called Millennials, had not even heard of the Holocaust or weren’t sure they had, and 11 percent of older adults hadn’t.
Another two-thirds of Americans had never heard of Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp where at least 1.1 million people perished. And only 58 percent of the people surveyed believe something like the Holocaust could ever happen again, meaning 42 percent think it can’t.
People will die. Freedom will be denied. Beliefs will be crushed. For the sake of our future, we need to ramp up our knowledge of the Holocaust.
One bill that’s foundering in the state Legislature (A7495/S5431) would address that by requiring the commissioner of education to provide outreach and additional resources to school districts concerning course work, instruction and related curriculum.
Districts would be eligible for grants for guest speakers, events, lectures, field trips and other materials and experiences to enhance Holocaust education.
The state also would conduct a public education campaign and a study to assess the general public’s knowledge of the Holocaust.
Lawmaker need to pass this bill when they return to Albany in January.
A renewed commitment to Holocaust education would help ensure that future generations aren’t doomed to repeat what the world should never forget.