By Hailey Ung, Staff Writer
In a recent poll released on Holocaust Remembrance Day, shocking amounts of people were revealed to have little to no knowledge about the event. Two-thirds of the millennials surveyed by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany were unable to identify what Auschwitz was, arguably the most famous concentration camp of the Holocaust. In the same survey, it was reported that twenty-two percent of millennials had never heard of the Holocaust. In other polls, similar statistics were found: low numbers of people who knew the actual death toll of the Holocaust (6 million Jews) and relatively high numbers of people who believed that the events were greatly exaggerated.
The Holocaust was a mass genocide of Jews from 1933 to 1945. Spurred by anti-semitic views, Nazis, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, shipped off a vast number of Jews from countries such as Germany, Poland, Austria, and Hungary to concentration camps in which they faced cruelty, starvation, and likely death. Of these concentration camps, some of the most famous were Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Bergen-Belsen. In the end, over six million Jewish people were killed by illness, brutality, malnutrition, and mass extermination with the use of gas chambers.
The Holocaust was a major event in the world’s history. It affected, and still affects today, one of the most largely followed religions in the world, Judaism. As years pass and historical events fall further into our past, it becomes easy for the world to let history to become just that–history. It is easy to detach ourselves from our somewhat distant past and focus on the present events which seem more pressing and more important. However, in the same poll by the COnference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, considering that roughly half of surveyed Americans believe that something akin to the Holocaust could happen again, schools should ensure that detailed lessons about the Holocaust remain firmly in their curriculums. As of 2017, only eight states have mandated that lessons about the Holocaust be taught in schools. The lack of endorsement for education on the Holocaust likely contributes to the diminishing knowledge in students across America concerning the subject.
As a whole, it has been gathered that education on not only the Holocaust, but history as a whole, has been underemphasized. The deficit in students’ history knowledge begins at the elementary school level. Studies by Professor Bruce VanSledright of the University of North Carolina found that elementary school teachers consider teaching history a low priority compared to mathematics and english because the subject is not tested at state level, leaving students’ knowledge of history already at a low level as they enter middle school. In 2015, only 18% of eighth graders evaluated by the National Assessment of Educational progress were deemed proficient in U.S. history meaning that, entering high school, students already have a sub-par basis in their knowledge, which is not aided by the low number of mandated history classes in graduation requirements in the U.S. as opposed to in other countries. It is important to note, though, that the responsibility falls also on the shoulders of students to recognize the importance of the Holocaust and its relevance to us. The Holocaust serves, to many, as a reminder of the consequences of prejudice and unchecked bigotry. It emphasizes the necessity for equality and acceptance amongst all people lest we experience another Holocaust-level occurrence.
History reminds the world both of its mistakes and triumphs. Not acknowledging the past leaves us more vulnerable to making the same errors once again, reaffirming the importance of learning about major events such as the Holocaust.