News and Commentary

SCHAEFFER: Why We MUST Teach The Holocaust
Holocaust Memorial on September 21, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

A 50-state survey has revealed some disturbing results as it relates to Millennials’  and Generation Z’s knowledge of the Holocaust. Gideon Taylor, President of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), announced the release of the U.S. Millennial Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey. It is the first-ever 50-state survey on Holocaust knowledge among our nation’s youngest adult demographics. Among the survey’s findings, 63 percent of all national respondents do not know that six million Jews were murdered and 36 percent of those who were aware of the genocide thought the number was closer to “two million or fewer Jews” who perished. There were more than 40,000 camps and ghettos scattered across Europe during the Holocaust, and yet 48 percent of national survey respondents could not name a single one.

An even more disquieting survey response showed that even in heavily Jewish New York, nearly 20 percent of respondents believe that Jews actually caused the Holocaust.

“The results are both shocking and saddening and they underscore why we must act now while Holocaust survivors are still with us to voice their stories,” says Taylor. “We need to understand why we aren’t doing better in educating a younger generation about the Holocaust and the lessons of the past. This needs to serve as a wake-up call to us all, and as a road map of where government officials need to act.”

Taylor’s sentiments ring true. But anyone following the decay of the teaching of history in our public schools as well as the daily political discourse should not really be shocked by these findings. After all, people only know what they have been taught. And what they are being taught in this nation is that only certain groups have a right to grievance. Jews, due to their success, social cohesion, and out-sized contribution to all aspects of American life, in business, science, education, the arts, technology, etc. simply do not qualify.  In a way, the incredible resilience of the world’s Jewish population — a group that numbers barely 15 million, roughly the population of Istanbul, and saw six million slaughtered in barely four years — has disqualified them from entry into the club of the aggrieved. And so why teach their history?

In the United States, there is a grievance hierarchy if you will. And, it seems, the worse off the group, the more right to claim oppression they have.  As the popularity and attention of the Black Lives Matter group shows, at the apex of this grievance pyramid are African-Americans. No one denies that racism in the United States was pervasive, cruel, unjust, and an impediment to economic success. 250 years of slavery, followed by a century of Jim Crow imposed enormous barriers to success for African-Americans.

Throughout the 19th Century and even through the 1940s Asians too were on the receiving end of harsh racism and discrimination. And Americans didn’t even try to hide their disdain for “the yellow horde” as was a common racist phrase back in the day. We even imposed immigration restrictions with the not-so-subtly titled Chinese Exclusion Act. During World War II, over 100,000 Japanese-Americans were rounded up on the West Coast and shipped off to camps, solely for the crime of their racial background. They were removed from their homes, saw their businesses shuttered, and lived in Spartan conditions under armed guards…even as their sons were actually fighting, many with note-worthy courage and spirit, for the same country that imprisoned their loved-ones. This at the same time some of our top generals had German surnames like Eisenhower, Spaatz, and Krueger.

If Asians have suffered any victimology, however, it is that of their own success.  Along with Jews, they are the most prosperous and successful sub-group in the United States. So much so that Harvard University, a supposed bastion of left-wing “tolerance” and proponent of “diversity” has been caught red-handed discriminating against Asians in its admissions process.

But Jews and Asians, lacking any aggrieved entitlement, have been cast down the well into those whose dark histories of oppression do not matter.  Since they are successful, their past sufferings cannot be used as a crutch to explain any present underachievement.

This paradox of success might be one reason why our youngsters know so little about the Holocaust, yet so much about slavery. Once again, the culprit is public education. I recently spoke out against a “race-relations” class to be included in my town’s high school curriculum. I did so not because I am some sort of racist (duh!) but rather that the course was built upon the structure of Critical Race Theory. This is a fashionable new school of academic thought whose core assumption is that the United States is innately, systemically racist. From this we learn of the never-ending series of hurtles that face African-Americans. And yes, there are many. Anyone who watches the documentary Age Seven In America can see that from the outset many minority children trapped in impoverished, drug-addled and gang-banger neighborhoods have little chance. And this is a tragedy. But it is a tragedy brought about in large measure by the introduction of the pathogen of the Welfare State into the body of minority neighborhoods, effectively replacing a father in the home as provider and mentor with the government. An explosion of out-of-wedlock African-American births starting in the late 1960s followed; the economic and cultural debilitating pathologies of such a social upheaval are so well-documented as to be declared “settled science” to borrow a phrase.

And yet, the relationship between government assistance and enervated communities is not part of the new race relations class syllabus. And the role of personal responsibility and proper behavior is never mentioned in the lesson plans that only present reading material from far-left activist/authors (no Thomas Sowell or Larry Elder to be found). The driving thesis of the course is that, basically, everything is someone else’s fault….victimhood. Primarily at the hands of the white heterosexual male.

There is no mention of the fact that a black child today has a 72 percent chance of being born to a single mother, whereas an Asian has an 18 percent chance.  No mention of the fact that two-parent black households are less likely to live below the poverty line than single-parent white households. Add to this the 1619 Project, which is not history but a re-written far-left narrative that would make Orwell blush, and one can see why there is no time for less consequential matters like the industrialized mass murder of six million men, women, and children and brutal physical and emotional abuse of millions more, solely based on their ethnicity/religion. Not when they are doing just fine now.

The disconcerting numbers in the Holocaust survey serve as an indictment of the entire American education system. I will go further and say they represent a crime against our youth. Lying by omission is just as insidious — albeit politically effective — as outright fabrication.

The simple fact is this: The Holocaust happened. The mind-boggling breadth and scope of mass murder is matched only by its unimaginable cruelty. It was, quite simply, one of the most important events to ever happen in the entire story of mankind. I mean ever. Places like Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belsen, Sobobor, Dachau, and tens of thousands of others are not just names, or historical asterisks. They are dark mirrors held up to ourselves…and they demonstrate our inherent capacity to inflict unimaginable cruelty upon others when the additive of industrial ingenuity is mixed with the base alloy of hatred and prejudice.

The Holocaust must be remembered.  How else can we honor those millions of innocent lives snuffed out, those millions of potentials wasted, if we do not learn from their suffering? And how can we learn that which is never taught to us.

The frightening thing about history is how easily it can be erased. As the sadistic SS commandant in the film Schindler’s List so glibly said of the 600 year-old thriving Jewish community in Krakow, “By this evening those six centuries are a rumor. They never happened. Today is history.”

Teaching our children so little about the Holocaust is educational malpractice writ large. But what can be done?  It seems that if classes on slavery, necessary and proper as they certainly are, should be part of any history curriculum, so too should the Holocaust. We have no choice. Otherwise we are doomed to repeat the very crimes too few today even know happened.

One only need to recall the 1942 Wannsee Conference (something I have no doubt few know even occurred) wherein the “Final Solution,” the euphemism for the industrialized mass-murder of Europe’s Jews was hashed out in chillingly antiseptic detail, to understand what he meant when C.S. Lewis observed: “The greatest evil…is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.”

This is why we must teach the Holocaust. Not because it is important to a small segment of the world’s population. We teach the Holocaust because it is the story of us. It serves as a warning of what we are capable of when hatred, superstition, and cold ambivalence are given free rein in the hearts of men. That entire generations are going through life not even aware such a monstrous crime occurred, just three-quarters of a century ago, is frightening in its implications. (That any U.S. president today can be compared to Adolf Hitler shows just how corrosive this ignorance of the past can be.)  Our education system has failed a generation. It is time to teach history again. The classroom is not a venue to force grievance and a disdain for their own great nation upon captive and impressionable minds.  In telling such an important and shameful chapter as the Holocaust, we remind the next generation that no people are immune from its evil machinations.  Fore-warned is fore-armed. Otherwise why study the past at all?

Brad Schaeffer is a commodities trader, columnist, and author of the acclaimed World War II novel Of Another Time And Place

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