The upcoming critically-acclaimed documentary “The U.S. and the Holocaust,” educates a wide audience on the role of the United States in this humanitarian tragedy.
The PBS film series by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick and Sarah Botstein deepens the conversation about what happens when antisemitism and hatred run unchecked. It asks essential questions about the role of society and how that response affects the nation as a whole.
Still a problem today, discrimination of one group gives permission to target other groups. In the United States there has been a dangerous rise in acts of antisemitism. In 2021, the Anti-Defamation League tabulated the highest number of antisemitic incidents (2,717) since tracking began in 1979.
Currently in America, there is a disturbing lack of knowledge regarding the Holocaust, the systematic genocide of six million Jews in Europe. This is evidenced by a Claims Conference study (2020) that found that one in ten respondents did not remember ever hearing the word “Holocaust.”
In Georgia, specifically, there is also a clear lack of awareness of key historical facts. In the same survey, 62 percent of all respondents said they did not know that six million Jews were murdered and 36 percent thought that “two million or fewer Jews” were killed during the Holocaust.
The response to this alarming ignorance is simple and accessible: quality education.
Education does not just speak of the Holocaust as a historical event from more than 80 years ago. Rather, it uses this tragedy to teach the appalling failure of humanity and to actively combat hatred wherever and whenever it occurs. Education helps us understand that this hatred of Jews occurs in obvious and subtle ways, in public and in secret, in blatant forms and through denial and distortion. It creeps into the public discourse through inappropriate references to the Holocaust, Israel and the Jewish people.
Learning about the Holocaust includes visiting Holocaust museums and attending programs; hearing from survivor speakers; reading eyewitness testimony of liberators and being aware of the marginalization or targeting of any group. “The U.S. and the Holocaust” documentary is an excellent addition to these other teaching tools.
At the Breman Museum’s Weinberg Center for Holocaust Education, we teach the events of the Holocaust so that a new generation will fulfill the legacy of “Never Again!” and will challenge modern antisemitism, bigotry, racism and hatred in all forms.
Education will be the cure to this cancer affecting our world. Education guides our response to dispelling ignorance and myth. Education leads us to accept the differences in all humanity without fear.
Intolerance and antisemitism are poisons that impact all of society. As a nation, we must be educated on the hard truths of how this issue persists today and what we need to do to ensure a better tomorrow.
Rabbi Joseph Prass is the director of the Weinberg Center for Holocaust Education at The Breman Museum