Op-Ed: Holocaust education should be mandatory in schools


Photo credit: Ron Porter from Pixabay, licensed for reuse

One of the many railroads that led to the largest concentration camp in World War II, Auschwitz in Poland. As emerging generations are becoming more distanced from the events of the Holocaust, education of this genocide should be mandatory throughout the United States.

When I tell my peers that my great-grandparents were Holocaust survivors, I usually receive a response along the lines of, “That is so sad I am so sorry” or “It is so crazy that something like that could ever even happen.” So picture this: I am scrolling through The Guardian’s website this past week and I read the headline “Nearly two-thirds of US young adults unaware 6m Jews killed in the Holocaust.” Of course, I clicked on the article to which the opening line was “Almost two-thirds of young American adults do not know that six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, and more than one in 10 believe Jews caused the Holocaust, a new survey has found, revealing shocking levels of ignorance about the greatest crime of the twentieth century.”

As I read each word I felt a pressure behind my eyelids, a tear fell, and then another and then another. Is my generation really the ignorant one? I was in disbelief. According to the Pew Research Center post-millennials, today’s eight through 23-year-olds, are on track to be the most educated and diverse generation yet. So why is it that almost half, 48%, of the Guardian’s respondents couldn’t even name a single concentration camp?

The direct answer to this question is that Holocaust education in schools is only required in 15 states. This leaves the majority of the United States unexposed to this genocide that every single person should be aware of.

On May 29, 2020, the Never Again Education Act was officially signed into law, providing 10 million dollars in funding for Holocaust education in American schools. Yet, 35 states don’t even require Holocaust education in schools. According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, “Examination of the history of the Holocaust can illustrate the roles of historical, social, religious, political, and economic factors in the erosion and disintegration of democratic values and human rights. This study can prompt learners to develop an understanding of the mechanisms and processes that lead to genocide, in turn leading to reflection on the importance of the rule of law and democratic institutions.”

Teaching and learning about the Holocaust can help learners to identify distortion and inaccuracy when the Holocaust is used as a rhetorical device in the service of social, political and moral agendas.

— the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance

Understanding the Holocaust and learning about it in school, is a key factor in understanding the evolution of anti-Semitism and how it is embedded in our society today. Whenever I go to temple, I see security outside to ensure that no one will light the Temple on fire. Whenever I drive for over an hour in any direction, I see a swastika symbol somewhere on a traffic light. Anti-Semitism is so prevalent nowadays that it is absolutely necessary that every school in every state learns about the Holocaust. Honestly, it is the bare minimum.

We owe this nationally implemented education to the victims and we owe it to the Jewish people everywhere who to this day, still fear being in their own skin.