The Holocaust: What Happened and Why It Still Matters

 

“Holocaust” etymologically means “sacrifice by fire for God.” It’s a strange word for what was a mass murder, which had no purpose other than utter destruction. Entire families of an entire generation were not sacrificed by fire to please God; they were murdered by the worst of humanity and for worst of science. Many insist on the word Shoah, which means catastrophe.

An unsurprising new poll has revealed that few Americans, and few Millenials, know anything about the events of the Shoah. The New York Times writes,

For seven decades, “never forget” has been a rallying cry of the Holocaust remembrance movement.

But a survey released Thursday, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, found that many adults lack basic knowledge of what happened — and this lack of knowledge is more pronounced among millennials, whom the survey defined as people ages 18 to 34.

Thirty-one percent of Americans, and 41 percent of millennials, believe that two million or fewer Jews were killed in the Holocaust; the actual number is around six million. Forty-one percent of Americans, and 66 percent of millennials, cannot say what Auschwitz was. And 52 percent of Americans wrongly think Hitler came to power through force.

The saying goes “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In Europe, even before the last survivors have passed, history is already repeating itself. In Paris recently a Holocaust survivor was murdered in her own home, the victim of an anti-Semitic attack. Not only was the 84-year-old woman stabbed eleven times, but she was then burned beyond recognition. The Times of Israel reported on the crime, comparing it to another similar attack on a Jewish woman, Sarah Halimi, in her home last year.

France has been Ground Zero for anti-Semitic attacks in a continent not exactly unfamiliar with the phenomenon. Twelve years ago a young Jewish man, Ilan Halimi was kidnapped, tortured and killed in Paris. In 2012, seven were killed, including children at a school in Toulouse, France. The Times of Israel called those attacks the beginning of a wave of terror in the country; though one could argue it began with Halimi’s murder in Paris, a brazen attack which French authorities initially refused to attribute to anti-Semitism.

In her story on the disappearing knowledge of the Shoah among Americans, especially Millenials, Maggie Astor spoke with a number of historians and curators of Holocaust Museums and memorials, who suggested more personalized experiences; hearing directly from survivors whenever possible.

To be sure, ignorance of the slaughter of millions of Jews stems from ignorance of all history, not just that of that era. Americans know less and care less about history; it’s no coincidence the History Channel has somehow morphed into the alien chasing channel.

The sad truth about the study isn’t just that Americans don’t know about how anti-Semitism led to the mass death of Jews, but also that they don’t care. How many know of the continued attacks on Jews in the present day in Europe; at schools, grocery stores, restaurants, synagogues, and even their own homes? The news isn’t even met with a shrug here, so why should historical accounts of the murder of Jews elicit anything more?

There are 29 comments.

  1. Member

    Not even met with a shrug? Everyone I know is horrified by news of anti-Semitic attacks. But I’m just a flyover Catholic, as are lots of the people I know, so I guess we don’t count. Don’t confuse our inability to influence European Muslims with lack of concern.

    • #1
    • April 13, 2018 at 4:32 pm
    • 7 likes
  2. Member

    This article is particularly relevant these days. I feel as though I am back in the 1930’s as the striped pants Ivy League privileged (Sumner Welles & Co.) are at it again. http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/why-do-you-hate-israel/21297#.WtEi95cpDcc

    • #2
    • April 13, 2018 at 5:06 pm
    • 5 likes
  3. Thatcher

    Duane Oyen (View Comment):

    This article is particularly relevant these days. I feel as though I am back in the 1930’s as the striped pants Ivy League privileged (Sumner Welles & Co.) are at it again. http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/why-do-you-hate-israel/21297#.WtEi95cpDcc

    Speaking of which we have a Democratic Congressman referring to “the Jewish question” just like it was 1936 again!

    • #3
    • April 13, 2018 at 5:11 pm
    • 12 likes
  4. Podcaster

    Does this really surprise you? If America is an idea and not just a country, then the best way to kill the idea is to distort, alter or simply obliterate the history.

    If you’re trying to sell the idea that Trump in particular and Republicans in general are fascists, the way to do that is change the perception of the fascist. Because based on real history these people are terrible at being fascists. When I was young I heard that Ronald Ray-Gun was supposed to be a fascist. But then I also knew adults in my community that had numbers tattooed on their arm, people who could testify about the horrors of the camps and knew what real fascism looked like.

    Every time a lefty gives me that crap I say to them, “Really? And does the Kommandant of the Concentration camp give you a day pass from the camp? And the access to a cell phone so you can Tweet stupidity like that?”

     

    • #4
    • April 13, 2018 at 5:38 pm
    • 15 likes
  5. Thatcher

    The sad truth about the study isn’t just that Americans don’t know about how anti-Semitism led to the mass death of Jews, but also that they don’t care. How many know of the continued attacks on Jews in the present day in Europe; at schools, grocery stores, restaurants, synagogues, and even their own homes? The news isn’t even met with a shrug here, so why should historical accounts of the murder of Jews elicit anything more?

    Actually many Americans do care but many of them are considered racists by those who don’t. Funny how that works.

    • #5
    • April 13, 2018 at 5:44 pm
    • 11 likes
  6. Thatcher

    I think this may be more indicative of a broader problem with education in the United States. It looks like the education establishment is systemically dismantling instruction in basic knowledge in favor of esoteric theories to fundamentally transform society. In order words, students need to be kept ignorant in order to accept this nonsense.

    Compared to Holocaust knowledge, I’d be more concerned that under intersectionality theory, Jews rank very low, with white Christian women being on a lower rung, and white Christian men on the lowest.

    • #6
    • April 13, 2018 at 5:55 pm
    • 10 likes
  7. Member

    Gumby Mark (View Comment):

    I think this may be more indicative of a broader problem with education in the United States. It looks like the education establishment is systemically dismantling instruction in basic knowledge in favor of esoteric theories to fundamentally transform society. In order words, students need to be kept ignorant in order to accept this nonsense.

    Compared to Holocaust knowledge, I’d be more concerned that under intersectionality theory, Jews rank very low, with white Christian women being on a lower rung, and white Christian men on the lowest.

    Education is about two things now: graft and indoctrination. The whole system needs to bet completely atomized. 

    • #7
    • April 14, 2018 at 3:08 am
    • 4 likes
  8. Thatcher

    Even people who know about the Holocaust say things like, “It can’t happen here.” Oh yeah? I recommend The History of Hitler’s Empire by Dr. Thomas Childers. It’s one of the many terrific lecture series from The Great Courses, and it is one of the most chilling:

    https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/history-of-hitler-s-empire-2nd-edition.html

    The series is not about the holocaust (but it gets covered); it’s about how someone like Hitler rose to power in what was supposed to be a nation of civilized people. There are eerie parallels to events in the US today, particularly with 1) the fanaticism and hatred from the left, 2) the rise of violent groups like Antifa and BLM (heck, I’d even throw in Occupy Wall Street), and 3) propaganda sold as fake news.

    The fact is it can happen here, and young people need to be armed with the knowledge of how it can happen. To me, the horrors of the Holocaust is the example that needs to be taught.

    • #8
    • April 14, 2018 at 5:43 am
    • 7 likes
  9. Inactive

    I blame American Jews who won’t take their own side. You, Bethany, and @susanquinn are brilliant exceptions. I wish you had a wider forum.

    (Forgive my presumption, but I have been married to a Jew for 45 years, so believe me, I have given this a LOT of thought. I never stop thinking about it.)

    i saw a play in New York last year, If I Forget (Levinson) about an American Jewish family. The protagonist is an academic who ha dedicated his academic life to debunking the uniqueness of the horror of the Holocaust. His daughter (an offstage character) is driven insane by a visit to Jerusalem.

    Move beyond the obsession with the Holocaust! We’re not the only people who have ever been victims of genocide, get over it.

    In my humble opinion, this is an attempt to “normalize” the position of the Jews in the world. Which I would applaud if I thought that were possible. 

    It may make Jews feel better, evidently it does, judging by the reaction of the NY audience.

    Here’s what it doesn’t do:

    it doesn’t stop, nor discourage, the antiSemitic attacks you describe.

    Such attacks are on the rise.

    Wake up, American Jews!!

    • #9
    • April 14, 2018 at 6:15 am
    • 9 likes
  10. Member

    Some estimates go as high as 17 million people killed during what can be described as the holocaust, including the 6 million Jews. If we remind young people this included many LGBT folks, they will misremember their history longer.

    • #10
    • April 14, 2018 at 6:28 am
    • 3 likes
  11. Inactive

    Robert E. Lee (View Comment):

    Some estimates go as high as 17 million people killed during what can be described as the holocaust, including the 6 million Jews. If we remind young people this included many LGBT folks, they will misremember their history longer.

    No they won’t. They’ll just start thinking it was LGBTs who were the “real” object of the persecution. And the Jews are just trying to hog the martyrdom for themselves–to justify the Jews’ intolerable, incomprehensible insistence on daring to try to keep a homeland (smaller than New Jersey and with less population). 

    In fact I feel like deleting this. There’s too much danger it’ll go mainstream. 

    • #11
    • April 14, 2018 at 6:38 am
    • 4 likes
  12. Inactive

    (duplicate comment)

    • #12
    • April 14, 2018 at 6:38 am
    • Like
  13. Coolidge
    ST

    Gumby Mark (View Comment):
    Actually many Americans do care but many of them are considered racists by those who don’t. Funny how that works.

    Ricochet comment of the day.

    • #13
    • April 14, 2018 at 8:00 am
    • 8 likes
  14. Member

    Outstanding if depressing OP, and equally superb comments: Allow me to synthesize a bit further in my own way.

    1. The driving force of so much of current-day indoctrination, Marxism, has virulent Jew-hatred as a core tenet — see Jerry Muller’s discussion of this in his magisterial book “The Mind and the Market” (which also happens to have a Great Courses counterpart Muller teaches, called “Thinking About Capitalism”).
    2. While Jew-hatred was and remains “the longest hatred” characterized by phantasm-like paranoiac views of Jews’ intentions and capabilities, Marxism gave this hatred a purportedly scientific validity, and in turn this birthed over time the contention that societies everywhere are rife with deliberately-obscured-yet-undeniably-powerful-and-sophisticated structures of oppression that are self-perpetuating while at the same time susceptible to a full “mapping” and “analysis” by soi-disant scientific methods — and once comprehended by such methods, these same structures are susceptible to being overthrown (by the vanguard, etc.), thus immanentizing the eschaton.
    3. This assertion of the widespread predominance of deliberately-obscured-yet-undeniably-powerful-and-sophisticated structures of oppression is, as Kenneth Minogue illustrated, the ideological dividing line of our day, between the aspirants of totalitarianism and the defenders of liberty; in other words, the classical Left-Right divide between adherents of the Thomas Paine worldview versus those of the Edmund Burke persuasion is now relegated to a mere sideshow — the confrontation (if not from as far back as Marx’s day then at least since that of Lenin and Hitler) is principally between those who purport to show everyone the light about these hidden oppressive structures and the way to smashing them, versus those who live and wish to continue living in the real world with a willingness to pay for the defense of their individual and collective autonomy with the coin of personal and communal maturity and responsibility.

    In deference to those on “our” side who are lovers and defenders of liberty while not investing that love and defense with a role fulfilled by and an objective of honoring a non-earthly Creator, I’ve deliberately omitted the God-committed-versus-God-rejecting characterization of the divide we confront and the conflict we must engage in, but my own personal belief is that it is paramount.

    Yoram Hazony provided one of the greatest modern-day depictions of this confrontation and conflict in his book “The Dawn: Political Teachings of the Book of Esther,” and just the other year Caroline Glick offered up one of the most powerful encapsulations of Hazony’s (syn)thesis here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_63GLG15hBo

    • #14
    • April 14, 2018 at 8:35 am
    • 4 likes
  15. Thatcher

    Hypatia (View Comment):

    Robert E. Lee (View Comment):

    Some estimates go as high as 17 million people killed during what can be described as the holocaust, including the 6 million Jews. If we remind young people this included many LGBT folks, they will misremember their history longer.

    No they won’t. They’ll just start thinking it was LGBTs who were the “real” object of the persecution. And the Jews are just trying to hog the martyrdom for themselves–to justify the Jews’ intolerable, incomprehensible insistence on daring to try to keep a homeland (smaller than New Jersey and with less population).

    In fact I feel like deleting this. There’s too much danger it’ll go mainstream.

    It should be pointed out that any group persecuted for whatever reason can end up being horribly murdered by the state. Look at what happened-and newly happening-in Africa. White, Christian (presumably) farmers are once again being stripped of their property rights (under the guise of reparations-remember that word), with the threat of physical retribution close behind.

    Blacks, LGBTs . . . any groups that indentify themselves as something special should realize conservatism is a live and let live philosophy. For example, many conservatives might embrace a discussion on whether not there should be such a thing as . . . gay “marriage”, for example. Instead of a long-running, intellectual discussion with a debate on the pros and cons of the concept, we had it rammed down our throats by a handful of men and women in black robes.

    • #15
    • April 14, 2018 at 10:42 am
    • 2 likes
  16. Thatcher

    I support the American Society for Yad Vashem. They have an excellent newsletter called “Martyrdom and Resistance” that is worth the price of admission.

    The officers and wealthy supporters of the American Society are the normal Reform Jewish Liberals. Former president Barack Obama honored them by appearing at one of their functions, and from the pictures in the newsletter you could almost see them panting to get close to their idol. Funny, they never seem to notice his opposition to the State of Israel and support of Islam, the largest threat to Jews today. [an illustration of the fact that they are Liberals first, and Jews second]

    • #16
    • April 14, 2018 at 3:02 pm
    • 4 likes
  17. Thatcher

    Here’s a touching holocaust story you might be interested in, @bethanymandel:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/childhood-holocaust-survivors-reunited-after-76-years/2018/04/13/5f2a6dfc-3ee3-11e8-955b-7d2e19b79966_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.8d1fbc4f4f68

    • #17
    • April 15, 2018 at 6:38 am
    • 1 like
  18. Member

    Thank you @stad for posting the article from Washington Post.

    I think if there is another group of people despised as much as the Jews, it is the Gypsies. I am currently reading “Bury Me Standing” by Isabel Fonseca. Pub 1995 by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc. “She traces their exodus out of India 1,000 years ago and their astonishing history of persecution: enslaved by the princes of medieval Romania; massacred by the Nazis; forcibly assimilated by the communist regimes; and most recently, evicted from their settlements by nationalist mobs throughout the new ‘democracies’ of Eastern Europe. Whether as handy scapegoats or figments of the romantic imagination, the Gypsies have always been with us- but never before have they been brought so vividly to life.”

    Slavery of Gypsies still existed into the 1900s in East Central Europe.

    • #18
    • April 15, 2018 at 9:23 am
    • 2 likes
  19. Member

    Part of the problem is there has always been a battle between individual conscience, and those who promote collective conscience. An individual needs to examine their own conscience, and that becomes painful at times. It also requires critical thinking skills to confront ideas, and weigh their moral or immoral implications. The collective conscience relieves the burden of critical thinking skills, and promotes rationalizations. Rationalizations are comfortable, but it leaves the individual at the mercy of those who believe conscience can be inculcated by a fist.

    We have raised several generations in this country that have been taught that all ideas and actions have equal merit. There is no good or evil. Although those who promote that view believe that if you don’t believe that then you must coerce those who know better.

    They abhor dogma, but the paradox is that is also a dogma. The memorization of platitudes is not discernment, nor does it require critical thinking skills. We have several generations that are at the mercy of the notion that popular culture shapes truth, but it does not, it shapes opinions.

    • #19
    • April 15, 2018 at 9:26 am
    • 5 likes
  20. Contributor

    There are a number of reasons for this story being lost. One is that the Left is too busy including propaganda and indoctrination in their curriculum. I mean there is so much time in a school day. They need to spend time on the Founders–like the ones who had slaves. Or Christopher Columbus who killed off thousands upon thousands of Indians. They need to teach how Islam is a fine religion and Christians are wicked. Second, the holocaust is so unpleasant to talk about. When we’re not attacking our own people, we want to talk about more pleasant things–like gay parades and fluid sexuality. And then finally, there is the possibility of an undercurrent of anti-Semitism: do the Jews really deserve sympathy?

    It’s not a pretty picture.

    • #20
    • April 15, 2018 at 12:01 pm
    • 4 likes
  21. Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    There are a number of reasons for this story being lost. One is that the Left is too busy including propaganda and indoctrination in their curriculum. I mean there is so much time in a school day. They need to spend time on the Founders–like the ones who had slaves. Or Christopher Columbus who killed off thousands upon thousands of Indians. They need to teach how Islam is a fine religion and Christians are wicked. Second, the holocaust is so unpleasant to talk about. When we’re not attacking our own people, we want to talk about more pleasant things–like gay parades and fluid sexuality. And then finally, there is the possibility of an undercurrent of anti-Semitism: do the Jews really deserve sympathy?

    It’s not a pretty picture.

    Hopkins, Minnesota has a charter school that focuses on teaching elementary kids Hebrew (but no religion) , the American values system, and they study the Founders extensively. It’s way over subscribed; it’s like the most oversubscribed charter school ever, here. They opened another one in a southeast suburb too. I think they have a special math program as well. 

    • #21
    • April 15, 2018 at 12:15 pm
    • 3 likes
  22. Thatcher

    Maybe the issue is because, to my surprise, the Holocaust was not really about the Jews.

    From Daily Mail: A newly hired employee at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam who is an Orthodox Jew was initially banned from wearing his yarmulke because “it might endanger the neutrality” of the organization. After six months of agonizing debate the Board finally decided wearing it was okay.

    From Bookworm Room an explanation. Both the Frank House in Amsterdam and the Frank Center in NYC have been taken over by social justice warriors who want to deemphasize Anne’s Jewishness

    • #22
    • April 15, 2018 at 12:18 pm
    • 4 likes
  23. Coolidge
    ST

    Doug Watt (View Comment):
    who believe conscience can be inculcated by a fist.

    Are you saying that it is only a belief/ theory and not a fact? My field studies may have been conducted slightly different from yours, but I am quite confident in my findings.

    • #23
    • April 15, 2018 at 12:19 pm
    • 2 likes
  24. Contributor

    RufusRJones (View Comment):
    Hopkins, Minnesota has a charter school that focuses on teaching elementary kids Hebrew (but no religion) , the American values system, and they study the Founders extensively. It’s way over subscribed; it’s like the most oversubscribed charter school ever, here. They opened another one in a southeast suburb too. I think they have a special math program as well. 

    I believe early Americans studied Hebrew due to the Five Books of Moses originally in Hebrew. Given the foreign alphabet and reading it right to left, it’s not an easy language to learn, at least at first.

    • #24
    • April 15, 2018 at 12:23 pm
    • 2 likes
  25. Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    RufusRJones (View Comment):
    Hopkins, Minnesota has a charter school that focuses on teaching elementary kids Hebrew (but no religion) , the American values system, and they study the Founders extensively. It’s way over subscribed; it’s like the most oversubscribed charter school ever, here. They opened another one in a southeast suburb too. I think they have a special math program as well.

    I believe early Americans studied Hebrew due to the Five Books of Moses originally in Hebrew. Given the foreign alphabet and reading it right to left, it’s not an easy language to learn, at least at first.

    I bet that is good for your brain, though, but what do I know. I am very optimistic that those kids are going to be way ahead of other kids in multiple ways.

    I just watched their video. They teach Latin and Greek as well. The three languages of Western civilization.

    • #25
    • April 15, 2018 at 12:26 pm
    • 3 likes
  26. Contributor

    Gumby Mark (View Comment):

    Maybe the issue is because, to my surprise, the Holocaust was not really about the Jews.

    From Daily Mail: A newly hired employee at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam who is an Orthodox Jew was initially banned from wearing his yarmulke because “it might endanger the neutrality” of the organization. After six months of agonizing debate the Board finally decided wearing it was okay.

    From Bookworm Room an explanation. Both the Frank House in Amsterdam and the Frank Center in NYC have been taken over by social justice warriors who want to deemphasize Anne’s Jewishness

    I was sickened when I read Caroline Glick’s most recent post: how the person who purchased Anne Frank’s diary sold it in good faith to producers for stage and screen; they proceeded to remove her Jewishness from the productions.

    • #26
    • April 15, 2018 at 12:29 pm
    • 2 likes
  27. Thatcher

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Gumby Mark (View Comment):

    Maybe the issue is because, to my surprise, the Holocaust was not really about the Jews.

    From Daily Mail: A newly hired employee at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam who is an Orthodox Jew was initially banned from wearing his yarmulke because “it might endanger the neutrality” of the organization. After six months of agonizing debate the Board finally decided wearing it was okay.

    From Bookworm Room an explanation. Both the Frank House in Amsterdam and the Frank Center in NYC have been taken over by social justice warriors who want to deemphasize Anne’s Jewishness

    I was sickened when I read Caroline Glick’s most recent post: how the person who purchased Anne Frank’s diary sold it in good faith to producers for stage and screen; they proceeded to remove her Jewishness from the productions.

    The goal is that in a few decades the Holocaust is remembered, as President Obama referred to the murders by a Muslim terrorist at a Jewish deli in Paris, “a random act of violence” that had nothing to do specifically with Jews.

    • #27
    • April 15, 2018 at 12:33 pm
    • 1 like
  28. Contributor

    Gumby Mark (View Comment):
    The goal is that in a few decades the Holocaust is remembered, as President Obama referred to the murders by a Muslim terrorist at a Jewish deli in Paris, “a random act of violence” that had nothing to do specifically with Jews.

    May I not live long enough to see that . . .

    • #28
    • April 15, 2018 at 12:34 pm
    • 2 likes
  29. Coolidge
    ST

    Gumby Mark (View Comment):
    The goal is that in a few decades the Holocaust is remembered…

    That and/ or that it was a myth created by those rascally Jews to get even more sympathy (of which they seem to get none at all) in order to get more and more of your hard earned money. I mean that is already sort of the theme in many places (Iran for example) – isn’t it?

    • #29
    • April 15, 2018 at 12:48 pm
    • 4 likes