Never Forget: Why You Need To Visit Yad Vashem
(The Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem Photo Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg)
I am a part of the last generation to have direct contact with Holocaust Survivors. There is a responsibility among Millennials, Cusp, and Generation Zs to Never Forget. Never Forget is an active promise that ensures society does not forget The Holocaust's devastation via Holocaust education at all levels and ages. Since 1953, Yad Vashem has embodied this promise with its research archives, museums, and community outreach. I had the opportunity to Ricki P. to learn more about why one should visit Yad Vashem.
(Exterior of Yad Vashem Museum. Image courtesy Safdie Architects)
1. What Does "Never Forget" mean?
While “Never Forget,” is a well-meaning cliché, it requires substance; what are we not forgetting? Yad Vashem takes the history of the Holocaust and presents it to the public in a timely and compelling manner so that people can access the information, as well as have the resources and authentic facts to bring meaning to the phrase “Never Forget.”
(Interior of Yad Vashem Museum. Image courtesy Safdie Architects)
2. How does Yad Vashem fulfill the promise to "Never Forget"?
Yad Vashem is the world's memorial to the six million Jewish men, women and children murdered during the Shoah. We chronologically present the historically accurate story of both the victims and survivors of the tragic period, from the events leading up to the Holocaust to the rebuilding of Jewish life in the Displaced Persons camps across Europe. Yad Vashem is not only a museum, but also a research center and educational institution. Yad Vashem holds virtual and in-person educational and commemorative events and maintains an active publications department. We house the world's largest archives and collections of Holocaust related artifacts, artwork, documentation, and photographs. Through all of these initiatives Yad Vashem is preserving the collective memory of the Holocaust for posterity.
(Exhibit Galleries of Yad Vashem Museum. Image courtesy Safdie Architects)
3. How does social media change the landscape for Holocaust discussion?
Social media changed the landscape for Holocaust discussion completely and presents incredible opportunities that we have never had before. We can now reach a global audience with hundreds of thousands of people viewing content in various languages every day. Of course, social media provides an easier platform for Holocaust denial and distortion. However, the fact that we are able to reach people wherever they are and share meaningful, historically accurate content in real time, far outweighs the cons of the medium.
4. How can a person combat Holocaust distortion and denial?
In a sense, discerning Holocaust denial is much easier than distortion because it is more straightforward. If someone is denying that the Holocaust happened or claiming that a much smaller number than approximately 6 million Jews were murdered, or that Jews died from natural causes only – that is easy to detect. Distortion is harder, since it can appear in different ways. History can be distorted by taking facts out of context to create a narrative that never happened; by marshaling some facts and ignoring others to create a distorted picture; or by using some facts and some fake information to create a false picture. To identify any of those, one needs a certain amount of knowledge. If the information seems suspicious or if the source is suspicious (like a white supremacy source) it is a good idea to try to check the information on reputable sites like Yad Vashem’s website, available in eight languages.
Counter speech is an important way to counter any kind of hate speech. To counter distortion or denial one should certainly share more reliable information and links to that information. Links may also include material posted by reputable institutions on YouTube, Instagram, of TikTok, and not just written sources. In some countries there are laws against denial of the Holocaust and the major social media platforms are supposed to remove denial material, so it can be reported as a form of hate speech or antisemitism. Reporting distortion is more problematic, since it may not be as clearly seen as hate speech or antisemitism. Ultimately, encouraging education is an important long-term solution. Yad Vashem has free online college level courses about the Holocaust and antisemitism, in addition to a large library of lectures and testimonies on You Tube. Of course, there is no magic bullet for combatting Holocaust denial and distortion, since both overlap with the world of conspiracy theories and fake news, which are a huge problem in our digital world. Nonetheless we should still do what we can to marginalize such ideas.
(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)
5. Why should someone visit Yad Vashem?
Individuals and groups should visit Yad Vashem in order to learn about the history of the Holocaust, what was lost, how it happened, and how the event shaped history. They should come to learn and recognize the signs of antisemitism in order to combat it when it occurs. Furthermore, people should come to Yad Vashem to honor the victims, survivors, and Righteous Among the Nations and to become ambassadors of remembrance.
(Aerial Exterior of Yad Vashem Museum. Image courtesy Safdie Architects)
6. What are ways a person can get involved with Yad Vashem?
Yad Vashem has a network of international societies that support Yad Vashem's activities. You can help Yad Vashem by talking to your community centers, libraries and local schools to display Yad Vashem content by means of our ready2print exhibitions.
If you know the names of Holocaust victims, a particularly meaningful way to get involved is to submit a Page of Testimony in their memory. Holocaust survivors are welcome to share their testimony with us, as well.
When opportunities arise, volunteering at Yad Vashem is a way to get involved on-site. Wherever one is in the world, though, it is easy to follow Yad Vashem on social media in various languages. In English, aside from our blog, Yad Vashem maintains an active presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest.