Although the word ‘Holocaust’ brings the image of iron gates, burning furnaces, and emaciated bodies to mind for many people – it does not have the same effect on people in some parts of the world as others. In the United States of America, according to a study done by the Claims Conference in 2018, there is a lack of information about the Holocaust throughout all adults (millennials included). In the survey put out by Claims Conference, “…one-third of all Americans (31 percent) and more than 4-in-10 Millennials (41 percent) believe that substantially less than 6 million Jews were killed (two million or fewer)…” and that almost half of Americans cannot name a concentration camp or a ghetto that was constructed in Europe during that time. However, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), there were over 42,000 camps, ghettos, and other places of destruction.
Photo: Moritz Schumacher on Unsplash
The findings of the survey display that the American public has a lack of education about the Holocaust and the underlying ideology of anti-Semitism – and it has become apparent that the American people have lost view of what the beginning stages of a mass genocide looks like. It doesn’t look like mass graves and mountains of stolen wedding rings – it looks like separating families, filling the streets with special enforcement officers, and creating a false narrative that paints a vulnerable demographic as a tangible face of evil. Then, the belief can be pushed on economically desperate people, that if the evil can be driven away, their country will flourish.
Anti-Semitism is defined by Merriam-Webster as “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic or racial group.” Although the year is now 2019, there are still those who hold the ideals of Hitler and the rest of the Nazi party. With evidence that there’s such a lack of understanding, it’s clear that there needs to be more education in the school systems teaching not only what happened in the concentration camps or in the ghettos, but what the ideology of anti-Semitism contains and how microaggressions turn into acts of violence. It started with laws, increased hostility towards Jewish citizens of Germany, and the governmental leaders showing gross apathy to its minority citizenship.
These lessons from history need to be taught, now more than ever. Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany looks eerily similar to the actions taken against the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) citizens of the United States today. Although there are no ‘death camps’ labeled as such, the United States government is currently holding families in separate areas, and has “…lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children…” according to a New York Times article published in April of 2018. There may not be ‘ghetto’s by name, the Indigenous population has been forced to live on smaller and smaller pieces of land that the United States government has ‘given’ to them from their own territory. There may not be mass graves being dug, but our Black and Brown boys are being shot in the street for being children.
It’s clear we haven’t learned, and we need to.
Sarina Alley is a Salem State University graduate, living off the coast of Maine; she currently watches the effects of global warming very personally.