April is Holocaust Remembrance Month. It is a time of reflection for survivors and those who lost loved ones. It is a time for generations who were not even born to learn of the atrocities of the Holocaust, and to do whatever it takes to ensure it never happens again. We must remember, we must never forget. The Holocaust didn’t occur overnight; it was a series of events over time where freedoms were slowly taken away, one by one. At the time, it was almost as if nobody noticed. Many thought is could not get any worse. It did. Over eleven million perished as a result. Eleven million. Generations were wiped out. Families were destroyed. Lives were changed forever.
This month marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of many of the concentration camps. Many solemn ceremonies have taken place at these camps to commemorate their liberation. American soldiers still talk about the devastation they found in the camps when they arrived. They even walked the citizens from nearby towns through the camps hoping for them to realize what they had allowed to happen in their own backyards. Unfortunately, many of them walked through expressionless claiming, “This is simply war.” The victims of the Holocaust were mainly innocent citizens, not soldiers. They did not deserve to die.
I once knew a man who was a German Nazi soldier during World War II. I had the opportunity to ask him about the Holocaust and how they could just stand by and allow it to happen. His response to me was, “It really wasn’t as bad as they said.” Of course, his response angered me initially. However, after reflection, I realized it was probably his way of being able to mentally deal with a situation he had had a hand in. I know they used propaganda to mind-wash, but I still stand in awe at how humans could allow such atrocities to happen to other humans and never do anything to put a stop to it.
As an educator you may be asking yourself what can you do with this information. My answer, teach. Teach your students about the Holocaust so that the victims will never be forgotten. Teach them about the Holocaust so that the tragedy never happens again. Teach them about the Holocaust so they too can teach their children. It isn’t an attractive subject to learn, but you must remember, behind every name you run across from the Holocaust, there is a story. They were a human being. Don’t let their stories fade.