Survey shows Holocaust fading from memory despite its current relevance

Jess Kaplan, Senior Writer

It has been more than 70 years since Germany surrendered to the Soviet Union, formally marking the end of the Holocaust in which 6 million Jews, among other social minorities, perished. In the years since, survivors have rebuilt their synagogues, established Holocaust memorials and museums, and have embraced the slogan “never forget” to ensure that the Holocaust remains a memory rather than a threat. However, a new survey by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which evaluated Holocaust knowledge and awareness in United States, revealed that the Holocaust is quickly receding from memory in adults.

According to the survey, approximately one-third of all Americans, and 41 percent of all millennials, believe that two million or fewer Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Nearly half of all Americans, and 66 percent of millennials, cannot say what Auschwitz was. But perhaps what is most disturbing is that the survey revealed that 70 percent of respondents believe that fewer people seem to care about the Holocaust as much as they should, given the gravity of this dark period in history.

A lack of knowledge of history can be dangerous: collective disregard for the harrowing effects of past discrimination facilitates the growth of modern racism. In the words of philosopher George Santayana, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Survivors have pushed to make the Holocaust a contemporary issue, because long standing anti-semitism enabled such atrocities. While the prejudices perpetuated by Nazis were cruel and irrational, they were widely accepted and unchallenged by non-Jews, which unfortunately made Jews an easy group to oppress.

In recent years, our culture has become more hostile towards minorities, immigrants, and those who do not conform, and Holocaust survivors fear that this bigotry could facilitate another atrocity. And while anti-semitism is often viewed as a “problem of the past,” white supremacists protesting this past August in Charlottesville, Va. served as a chilling reminder that such discrimination and hatred is not dead. In fact, the two are regaining prevalence.

For instance, Myanmar is now at the center of what is becoming a humanitarian crisis of historic proportions. Long term oppression of a Muslim ethnic group known as the Rohingya has escalated to what the UN is now referring to as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled violence and persecution, while the death toll has eclipsed 10,000 people. As this tragedy occurs before our very eyes, the probability of another Holocaust might not seem so far-fetched.

Fortunately, 93 percent of those surveyed agreed that all students should learn about the Holocaust in school, and 80 percent believe that teaching the Holocaust is an important way to ensure that it does not happen again.

While keeping the horrors of the Holocaust in our schools’ curriculum is a start, it is not nearly enough. Students must also understand and learn from the irreversible effects modern racism and hatred has on society, so that in the future, they will be the generation with the chance to end it.

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