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The next forgotten genocide?
The Holocaust was a war on Jewish people that started in 1933 and ended in 1945. The horror of the rise of the Nazis and the concentration camps occurred in Germany, Poland, Romania and Austria among a few other European countries. Auschwitz was the largest concentration camp. By the end, six million Jews were left dead, 1.1 million of them children.
These are all facts about the Holocaust that I was taught in Hebrew school and was reminded by my grandmother to never forget.
But not everyone goes to Hebrew School and gets quizzed on Holocaust facts by their grandmother and these are the people that are part of the reason the Holocaust is slowly but surely being forgotten.
Youngest survivors of the Holocaust are now in their seventies. First hand storytelling will soon vanish, along with memories and knowledge about what really happened during the Holocaust.
Factual details that can be looked up online will be all that’s left.
Once all the survivors are gone, who will be left to remember the lives lost? Who will tell first hand stories of the horror that Jews endured? Can an event so large and devastating be forgotten?
Reena Judd is the rabbi at Quinnipiac University. She hosts services in the Peter C. Herald House every Friday night and teaches a Hebrew class as well. She agrees that once the survivors are gone, there won’t be anyone to teach the history or explain the Holocaust firsthand.
“Now the survivors are dying, that’s the main reason that it (the Holocaust) is not talked about,” she said. “They are fragile.”
A comprehensive study of Holocaust knowledge and awareness in the United States was released on Thursday April 12.
The study was conducted by The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference).
Results of the study showed that 11 percent of American adults and 22 percent of American millennials do not know what the Holocaust is or have never heard of it.
The study also reported that 31 percent of adults and 41 percent of millenials thought that only 2 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.
One of Judd’s parents was a Holocaust survivors. She said she feels a personal connection to the Holocaust and therefore feels responsible to keep the memories alive in any way she can.
“Everything I do in my life, in my house, with my husband, in my job is about keeping the history alive, everything,” she said.
Not only did the survey show that Americans are forgetting the holocaust, but they are not learning enough about the event to forget it in the first place.
Almost half (45 percent) of adults and 49 percent of millenials can not name one concentration camp and four in ten Americans do not know what Auschwitz is, according to the survey.
Gabe Weiss, the President of the Jewish community on campus, thinks that if students do not learn what caused the Holocaust and the impact on society after the fact, history might repeat itself.
“When we forget the past we become doomed to repeat it,” he said. “For young people to not learn and recognize true evil, they will never learn to resonate truly with affected people and how to grow compassion and more importantly how to stop evil from growing.”
As a third generation Jew, I don’t feel as connected to Judaism as my grandparents did. I know that it is part of my heritage and gives me spiritual guidance at times but I do not actively practice Judaism as a college student.
Judd works closely with students and young people every day at work and at home with her children. She points out that the younger generations don’t associate with Holocaust survivors or elderly people in general very well.
“They are not even on your radar,” she said.
The Claims Conference survey supports Judd’s theory. Findings show a substantial lack of personal connections to the Holocaust. Most Americans (80 percent) have not visited a Holocaust museum and 66 percent of Americans do not know or know of a Holocaust survivor, according to the survey.
“By a third generation of religious tolerance and freedom, I think peoples allegiance to their faith, to their Judaism starts to become a distant process,” Judd said. “Is the extent of your kids Judaism going to be a ‘Shalom’ sticker on their laptop? I don’t know.”