Forgetting the Holocaust is a dangerous mistake

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The Holocaust Memorial of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, located at at Meridian Avenue and Dade Boulevard, seeks to serve as a daily reminder of the victims of the Holocaust. ( Wally Gobetz /Flickr)

The Holocaust Memorial of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, located at at Meridian Avenue and Dade Boulevard, seeks to serve as a daily reminder of the victims of the Holocaust. (Wally Gobetz/Flickr)

The Holocaust was an event that is painful to remember, but that does not mean we should forget it. Unfortunately, that is what many people have begun to do. A recent study released on Holocaust Remembrance Day has revealed that many people, specifically millennials, have huge gaps in the knowledge they possess about the Holocaust.

As history fades into the background and time goes on, this type of thing is usually expected. We do not necessarily remember all of the details of the Civil War, nor do we always know the history of other countries and cultures. Not knowing these things is usually not frowned upon too much, and the consequences we face for our lack of knowledge only seem to result in a low grade or missed exam question. However, allowing something like the Holocaust to fade from people’s memories is not only disrespectful to every person who was affected by it, but also could have more sinister consequences.

The extent to which people’s knowledge about the Holocaust is failing has become apparent by the survey that came out this past week by Claims Conference. This survey assessed people’s knowledge of facts about the Holocaust as well as measuring more subjective things, like asking those who took the survey how they think others perceive certain aspects of the Holocaust. Some of the most shocking and frightening parts of the survey lay solely in the facts, which were startlingly poorly received among those who took the survey. Of the responses counted, one-third of Americans believed that only two million Jewish people perished in the Holocaust, while the real number was over six million. Only 37 percent of people were aware that Poland was one of the countries in which the Holocaust occurred. 41 percent of Americans did not know what Auschwitz was. Most unbelievably, 11 percent of Americans said they did not know what the Holocaust was, or were unsure of whether or not they had heard of it. These numbers were all even more disappointing for millennials.

While these numbers may seem unbelievable to those of us that have learned and read about the Holocaust throughout our lifetimes, it appears that the reality is very different for many people in America. However, this is not an acceptable reality for us to be promoting to future generations. The Holocaust may be an event that happened in the past, but as the biggest genocide in our planet’s history to date, it is imperative that we keep the memory of this event in the forefront of our memories. If we don’t continue to remember the horrors that our ancestors lived through in the time of the Holocaust, what is to stop it from happening all over again?

When we learn about the Holocaust in schools now, it seems absurd that humanity could allow millions of people to be helplessly slaughtered due to their race and religion. Unfortunately, these types of things are happening every day on a smaller scale. While we may try to put a stop to them as they happen now, there was a time during World War II when our country was not doing its part in preventing these mass murders. We can look back now and be ashamed of what happened in the past, and try to stop it from ever happening again. However, if we forget the horrors of our past, or never learn them at all, there is no history to learn from and nothing stopping us from allowing another genocide of this magnitude to reoccur.

It may be difficult as individuals to educate the masses to keep the memories of our horrific past alive, but this is the best way to ensure that future generations become aware of what humans are capable of. The horrors of the Holocaust are not easily forgotten by those that were directly affected by them, but as time goes on and we move further from the 1940s, it becomes more and more difficult to remain connected to an event many would rather forget. Forgetting is not an option though, as knowing our history is one of the only ways to prevent it from repeating itself. When we slip and allow people to start forgetting the crimes we have committed in the past, we become closer to falling into the same patterns we are trying so hard to leave behind.


Emma Hungaski is the associate opinion editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at emma.hungaski@uconn.edu.

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