Modern Holocaust Education
When I write this blog, I usually discuss dogs, advertising, or fashion. This blog post is different. It is one, if not the most important, blog post I will write this semester. I preface this piece to tell you that the promise of Never Forget is being forgotten. I want to show you that the consequences of being removed from society's collective memory. Growing up, I had the opportunity to meet Holocaust survivors, study Holocaust history, and openly discuss this topic. I wrote a paper about World War II Germany auxiliary forces for my capstone class, History and Historians in college. I am no expert on this topic; I am someone who cares.
This article will display disturbing images.
(Image courtesy of https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/01/1001081)
As the last generation of Holocaust survivors is passing away, the promise of “Never Forget” is not only forgotten but blatantly abused. Only fifteen of the fifty states require Holocaust education in public schools (USHMM, 2020). In the remaining 70% of states, students are not required to learn about the Holocaust and the disturbing crimes committed by the Nazi party. This dark era of human history becomes tucked away as students regurgitate information about the Great Depression and McCarthyism. This lack of education has lead to Holocaust Distortion. Holocaust Distortion is rhetoric, written work, or other media that excuse, minimize, or misrepresent the known historical record of the Holocaust (IRHA,2019). Holocaust Distortion is not limited to political ideology or cultural divides (IRHA, 2019).
(the state that have Holocaust Education Legislation. Image courtesy of https://echoesandreflections.org/interactive-map/?utm_campaign=SM%3A%20Resources&utm_content=136585788&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&hss_channel=fbp-108925252480631)
Holocaust Distortion can be seen inside and outside the political arena. At the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, tourists have climbed its pillars to get the most "liked" photo (Gunter, 2017.) This movement is known as the Yolocaust (Gunter, 2017). Holocaust Distortion can also be seen in politics. When figures of authority describe current events in terms of the Holocaust, it minimizes the profound impact of the atrocities committed by the Nazis. Thus, it's only a matter of time for this sentiment to trickle down in more sinister ways.
( People jumping on the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Germany to get the best picture to post on social media --Image Courtesy of https://www.dw.com/en/yolocaust-art-project-challenges-how-the-holocaust-is-remembered/a-37187765)
Tik-Tok is a Chinese social media platform that allows users to create three to fifteen-second videos about anything (Schwedel, 2018). Tik-tokers (users of the app) can catapult into instant fame for dancing like Charlie D’Amelio or making music remixes like Ricky Desktop. Tik-Tok has become the land of opportunity as COVID-19 made life standstill. What do these Tik-tokers do with this endless potential? Do these Tik-tokers discuss how to improve sustainability? Do these Tik-tokers stand up for oppressed people? No, these Tik-tokers who were so bored at home decided it was appropriate to dress as Holocaust Victims and show off their make-up skills in an “art” form called Trauma Porn (Ankel, 2020). Thus, the newest form of Holocaust Distortion was born in the wake of utter boredom.
(TikTok creators present their 'POV' (point-of-view) first person videos for the #HolocaustPOVchallenge in which users pretend to be Holocaust victims. Credit: Twitter. Image Courtesy of https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-let-tiktok-users-pretend-to-be-victims-of-the-nazis-it-strengthens-holocaust-memory-1.9141182)
In Berlin, people were so outraged by the “Yolocuast” that Shahak Shapira (an Israeli- German writer) decided to publicly shame the social media junkies by super-imposing the horrors of the Holocaust behind their selfies (Gunter, 2017). Shapira’s photos showed the contrast between the documented horrific acts of the Nazi party and the smiling faces of Yolocaust enthusiasts (Gunter,2017). One can see a man juggling balls behind a mass execution site and grave (Gunter, 2017). Another selfie depicts a woman lying on the monument behind a cattle car full of shoes of victims sent to immediate death via the gas chambers (Gunter,2017). Shapira dared to stand up to this blatant disrespect (Gunter, 2017). One can only hope that another Shapira can rise to the occasion to be the newest ally against the Tik-Tokers who propagate Holocaust Distortion.
(An example of Shapira's work --Image courtesy of https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-38675835)