Almost two-thirds of young Americans have something in common, they don’t know that 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. A new survey looked into Holocaust knowledge in Millenials and Gen Z and it revealed shocking results. 1 in 8 respondents hadn’t heard the word Holocaust, 11% believed Jews caused the Holocaust, and almost half could not name a single concentration camp. Almost a quarter of respondents believed the Holocaust was a myth or had been exaggerated.
A signifnant amount of our youth lacks basic Holocaust knowledge. As a mother, Jew, and human, these results are equal parts sad, disturbing, and shocking. It is an eye-opener and urgent reminder that we must educate the next generation to the lessons of the past. The Holocaust, the genocide, and Aushwitz itself have become a symbol of human autrocity that cannot be ignored and should never be repeated. That is why it is so important to teach our children, because they must be better.
“If we let these trends continue for another generation, the crucial lessons from this terrible part of history could be lost.”Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which commissioned the study.
It is not an easy task to teach children about this emotionally challenging part of history. To help you navigate this challenge, here are 8 tips for educating children about the Holocaust:
1. Learn From The Past
Learn it so we don’t repeat it. In a time where there are very few survivors, educating the youth is more important than ever because the survivors will no longer be able to speak for themselves. Collectively, the only way to learn from the past, is to study it. There are so many lessons from the Holocaust, including inclusion, tolerance, and resilience. These are the lessons we want our youth to take with them and use in their daily life. But most importantly for our community as a whole, it can prevent future atrocities.
2. Empower Your Child
Teaching your child about the Holocaust is scary and you may think it will cause them to fear the dangerous world. It is a dangerous world. But that doesn’t mean you have to fear it. Teaching your child the power of love and tolerance will empower them with resilience to navigate the dangerous world.
3. Visit A Holocaust Musuem
If you find yourself at a loss of how to begin, visit a Holocaust Musuem. Sometimes the best way to explain something is to show it. There is no better place to provide the immersion into studying the Holocaust than a Holocaust Musuem itself because when words fail, imagery takes its place.
4. Be Honest (but age-appropriate)
There is no sugar-coating genocide. Being direct and starting slow is the best way to explain these events to your child. In fact, being straightforward and honest, rather than evasive, makes children feel more secure and provides reassurance. Answer their questions and see how much information they can take in. If your child needs more information, they will ask.
They are going to have questions but may not be able to articulate the emotional complexities. For instance if they ask how the Holocaust happened, they are not asking about the politics that led to tragedy. Instead, they are probably asking how people could be so terrible to one another. And that is what you should focus on in your explanation.
6. Bystander Effect
To fully teach about this event, it is important to look at not only the acts of the perpetrators and the victims, but the inaction of the bystanders. So many stood by and observed the Holocaust from a safe distance. Likewise deference to authority led to deeply unsettling moments. It’s hard to stand up to authority even when you know you are right. But it is so important to teach children to stand up for what they believe in as much as possible.
7. Be The Example
It’s our responsibility to make sure our children have the right tools to change the world for the better. Start with showing them the way. Set the example for your child to be tolerant, compassionate, and to stand up for what is right. This will show them what it means to do better and be better. By modeling these behaviors, it will teach your child to follow in your footsteps.
8. Power Of Our Choices
Perhaps the most important lesson we can teach our children is the power of their choices. Every choice has a consequence and impacts others. The best thing we can do for the next generation is to empower them to make smart choices that will not only strengthen their individual lives, but society as a whole.
Feature Image by Helga Weissova, “Terezin arrival.”