This should be a wake-up call

Young Americans need to be informed about the Holocaust, or else it will be forgotten

Jessica Simms, Managing Editor

There’s a quote by George Santayana, writer and philosopher, that says “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

At 16, Jessica Simms visited Auschwitz-Birkenau where at least one million people died. (Photo from Instagram)

I heard this saying, or a very similar one, every time I learned about the Holocaust to stress the importance of being educated about the horrors that took place. For the longest time, I could never imagine people not knowing that millions of people were killed during the Holocaust, potentially allowing for this terrifying history to repeat itself one day, until now.

I saw a poll conducted by the President of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany when I was scrolling on Twitter that stated “nearly two-thirds of young Americans do not know that six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, study finds.”

As a Jew, this hit home. I had family killed during the Holocaust and I, at the age of 16, toured Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest German Nazi concentration camp and extermination center created and used during the Holocaust. The anger and terror that I felt walking the grounds of that camp crept up on me when reading more of the poll’s horrifying statistics.

One of the most disturbing revelations was that 11% of the United States’ millennials and Gen Z members believe that the Jews caused the Holocaust, according to Newsweek. When I first read this, I burst into tears.

Not every person gets the chance to tour a concentration camp to see the barracks where prisoners slept, the gas chamber remains, the hair that was shaved off prisoners when they first arrived at the camps and the personal belongings stripped away from families when they were forced against their will to leave their homes forever. However, young Americans can be properly educated about the Holocaust in so many ways.

When I was in seventh grade, my English class read and watched “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” a historical tragedy book and film. While the story is fictional, it still taught my class about what happened in the concentration camps during the Holocaust. We talked about the historical facts that were included in the novel and opened a dialogue.

If my middle school teacher was able to take a few weeks out of the academic year to teach us about the Holocaust, then every teacher should have the ability to. The fact that so many young Americans are not aware of the magnitude of the Holocaust makes me think that some schools are not properly teaching this event or are not discussing it at all.

It is truly upsetting that the youth of the U.S. is not properly educated about this part of history. It is even more troubling that out of 1,000 people ages 18 to 39, nearly half of them said that they have seen Holocaust denial posts on social media or elsewhere online, according to Newsweek.

It is one thing to be unaware of history, but sharing this lack of knowledge online is scary. Therefore, we must fight this ignorance and stop the denial of this part of human history. Greg Schneider, Claims Conference vice president, said that social media platforms can help with the spread of denying the Holocaust.

“It is clear that we must fight this distortion of history and do all we can to ensure that the social media giants stop allowing this harmful content on their platforms,” Schneider said. “Survivors lost their families, friends, homes and communities; we cannot deny their history.”

My message to you is that you can help with this, too. If you see a denial post on social media or even a post that makes fun of the Holocaust, report it. If you have friends that are denying this horrific event or are unaware of its magnitude, share your knowledge with them.

If we work together, the Holocaust may not be forgotten.