By L.A. Williams & M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
April 5, 2019
Two-thirds of American millennials surveyed last year had no idea what Auschwitz was; 22 percent said they had not heard of the Holocaust or were not sure if they had.
Consider those poll results in light of philosopher George Santayana’s contention that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” and you won’t be surprised that many U.S. states are passing laws to require schools to teach students about the persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945.
North Carolina’s House Bill 437 – Education on the Holocaust and Genocide, introduced March 25 and approved by the House Education Committee on Tuesday, would require that the Holocaust and genocide be added to middle and high school English and social studies curricula beginning with the 2020-2021 school year.
The proposal is named the Gizella Abramson Holocaust Education Act in honor of a Polish native who survived multiple concentration camps before relocating to Raleigh where she died in 2011 at age 85.
“The survivors are leaving us and along with their departures, we need to make sure that we live up to the mantra of ‘Never again,’” said Richard Schwartz, vice chairman of the N.C. Council on the Holocaust. “This bill would help us do that in North Carolina by requiring the teaching of not only the Holocaust, but other genocides and make sure our students are not repeating the most horrible times of our history.”
Fred Guttman, a rabbi from Greensboro’s Temple Emanuel who has taught Holocaust studies for 40 years, showed lawmakers a photo depicting the shoes of people killed at a concentration camp in Poland. He said 20 other states already require that the Holocaust be taught in public schools.
Abramson’s son, Michael Abramson, is also advocating for the bill, telling legislators that Holocaust lessons can teach students “the value of tolerance, plurality, compassion, inclusion and democracy.”
Sara Bloomfield, director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, told the United Nations at a Jan. 29 remembrance ceremony that studying Holocaust history “helps us look back and see where warning signs were missed; where unintended consequences were ignored; where wishful thinking prevailed.”
She said looking back is “what we owe the victims. To remember their lives. To remember the horror of their deaths. And to remember most of all that we failed them.”
“We cannot fail them again by forgetting. We cannot fail them again by ignoring rising antisemitism and distortion and politicization of the Holocaust. We cannot fail them again by not learning from our failures,” Bloomfield added.
Interestingly, after having the Holocaust explained to them, more than nine out of 10 of those millennials surveyed by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany say that students should learn about it in school.
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said that the primary sponsors of HB 437, Representatives Linda Johnson (R-Cabarrus), Craig Horne (R-Union), Julia Howard (R-Davie), and Jeffrey Elmore (R-Wilkes) should be commended for recognizing the need for this legislation.
“Just this week, the New York Times published an article revealing the escalation of antisemitism around the world. France reports a 74% spike in anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitic attacks are up in Germany by 60%. In Poland, a newspaper sold inside the Parliament ran a headline which said, ‘How to Spot a Jew.” A Pew Forum survey reported harassment of Jews in 2013 reached a seven year high. As Islam spreads across the globe, it carries with it significant elements of anti-Semitism. In America, Rep. Ilan Omar from Minnesota has made anti-Semitc statements that have shocked many Americans. Alt-right groups, which are growing, like the ones that led the torch march in Charlottesville, are anti-Semitc organizations. Violent antiSemitc attacks even in the U.S. were up over 50% in 2015” said Creech.
“I think it’s imperative that our young people understand anti-Semitism is a threat to peaceful pluralism and a healthy civil democracy. It is contrary to God’s gift of freedom of both thought and religion. Let me say also that, as Christians, those who foster anti-Semitc attitudes are acting in defiance of Christ, and the Gospel of Christ, which was offered to the Jew first and then to the rest of the world. The world owes a great deal of appreciation to the Jewish people. It’s was because of what a Jew did, Jesus Christ, there is redemption from sin for all of us. Yes, I believe that HB 437 is very important legislation that every Christian should get behind.”
House Bill 437 now lies with the Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House.