Archives for posts with tag: Holocaust curriculum
Chamber Door courtesy of USHMM

A door to a “de-lousing” chamber in Auschwitz. Sign says: Harmful gas! Entering endangers your life. Photo: Courtesy of USHMM

 

Imagine this: Your 14-year-old son says his history teacher told him that the gas chambers in the Nazi concentration camps weren’t intended to kill Jews.

Really? What were they for then?

Per The News-Gazette in Champaign, Illinois, the town where this incident occurred, the teacher (who has not been publicly identified) said, “These concentration camps were horrific places due to cruelty from the guards, little to no food, as well as extreme overcrowding that led to the rapid transmission of deadly diseases in those conditions, such as typhus.”

He explained that this is based on his own research of the subject. What are your sources Mr. Teacher? Are they fact-based and reputable? Well, here’s a fact: The gas that came out of the showers killed lice, for sure, but it also killed the host, the HUMAN BEINGS that carried the lice. What you read is propaganda, that the ‘showers’ were to clean the prisoners, when in reality, they were to extinguish them, to choke the life out of them, to MURDER them. These are facts, witnessed by people who are still alive (!) and archived in legal documents around the world.

I don’t know what is going to happen to this teacher, and I don’t need to know his name or anything about him. Going forward, I just want him to share historical facts, not propaganda.

cynthia voelkl John Dixon The News-Gazette

Cynthia Voelkl. Photo: John Dixon/The News-Gazette

 

Thank you for saying something, Cynthia Voelkl. It’s easy to spout outrage, but to actually do something and attempt to effect change, well, that’s to be commended.

I think she sums it up best with this line: “I know it’s a complicated issue, especially with laws about free speech, but I don’t think historical facts are a matter of opinion.”

 

Hall of Names at Yad Vashem; photo: David Shankbone

That sentence stopped me in my tracks.

At last week’s 10th Biennial International Holocaust Studies Conference at Middle Tennessee State University, Steven Leonard Jacobs, uttered those words.

The Jewish studies professor from the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa also said: 

“There were 150 members of my family murdered between 1939 and 1945. My father was one of seven survivors. All seven are now deceased. But growing up, I knew my family was different somehow. We weren’t like other families. I grew up with dead relatives. When I would tell stories about playing with friends, my father would say, ‘Oh, that reminds me of my cousin who was killed by the Nazis.’”

Imagine your own mother or father doing that? I’m sure it would become tiresome, if not downright depressing. I’ve spoken with other offspring of survivors who tell similar stories. Perhaps some children would be inclined to stop sharing playground anecdotes with their survivor parents simply to avoid hearing about dead relatives, but Prof. Jacobs seems to have gone in the opposite direction by becoming a professor who specializes in Holocaust studies. He seems to have come to it with great passion and vigor, and I applaud that.

“All of us,” he said, “the second and third and fourth generations of parents who survived this terrible thing, represent a bridge over Hitler. When I was born, my dad said I was the victory. The Nazis didn’t defeat us.”

Indeed, every child and grandchild and great-grandchild and so on down the line is a triumph over Hitler. My husband and children included.

One of the goal’s of this biennial conference is to give middle- and high-school educators the tools they need to teach Holocaust curriculum.

According to the article in The Tennessean, Prof. Jacobs told the teachers that it is not their job to provide answers but to “have a solid knowledge base about the subject and to wrestle with the question: Are there lessons we can learn from it today?”

I, for one, appreciated that question he posed because I can only hear, “We must keep it from happening again,” so many times. Of course, we don’t want mass genocide to ever happen again, but it’s said so often that it’s become trite and I feel almost deaf to it now. Hopefully these new educators will bring some new thoughts and words, and in turn, their students will also breathe new life into Holocaust studies.