Antisemitism is defined as hostility to or prejudice against Jewish people. The Holocaust was shown to be the most extreme example of antisemitism ever to occur, resulting in the persecution and murder of six million Jews by Nazi Germany. However, violent antisemitism and hatred did not end with Nazi Germany’s defeat. Antisemitism has been on the rise, and it remains a critical issue today.
The Holocaust was the most profound expression of antisemitism. Antisemitism has endangered and continues to threaten the safety of Jewish people and communities worldwide. Like all forms of intolerance and discrimination, Jew hatred undermines peace and human rights and, most concerning, it has entered the mainstream. Once on the peripheries of society, antisemitism now hides in plain sight and has become normalized and weaponized. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that awareness of the Holocaust is crucial to counter and eliminate antisemitism. Essentially, the solution to combating and eradicating antisemitism is education. Awareness is both a short-term security imperative and a long-term educational investment. It will promote human rights and global citizenship, as well as prevent future acts of violence motivated by hate and prejudice.
This task of educating and creating awareness of the Holocaust is easier said than done. Thus, the question is not whether that the Holocaust should be taught in schools, but rather how it should be taught to accomplish the true goal of awareness.
The Holocaust should not only be taught at the primary and secondary school levels, but at college and university as well. Universities can learn from the prominent Holocaust museums in North America as to the most effective manner in which a topic as difficult as the Holocaust can be taught. For example, the Montreal Holocaust Museum lists eleven recommendations for teaching about the Holocaust to middle and high school students. Similar recommendations are found in the mission statements of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museums and the Vancouver Holocaust Center.
As a result of education on the reasons why and how the Holocaust occurred, a general awareness of the Holocaust will find its way into society. The result will be a broader understanding of the Holocaust and the genocide of the Jewish people by the Nazis, which will expand into discussions on related topics such as global human rights. Hopefully, studying this history will create an atmosphere of discussion amongst students that will lead to a consensus whereby all global citizens can enjoy fundamental human rights and recognize how the Jewish people were on the receiving end of avowed efforts to annihilation. The goal is to prevent the elements of divisiveness which lead to societal conflict. In short, Holocaust awareness can be an effective tool in the prevention not only of further acts of antisemitism, but also to prevent future atrocities throughout the world. In addition, Holocaust awareness will also be an effective tool for combating Holocaust deniers and those who distort the Holocaust, often for political purposes or to marginalize Jewish victimhood. The only way to fight lies and misinformation is by spreading truth.Elie Wiesel’s wise words correspond perfectly with this topic. “Education is the key to preventing the cycle of violence and hatred that marred the 20th century from repeating itself in the 21st century.” Let’s help spread awareness and properly educate those misinformed.
By: Alexandra Malamud