Recently a California school district believed that it would be smart assignment for an eighth grade class to have a discussion as to whether or not the Holocaust happened. What is worse is that any Conservative would believe this idea to be a good one.
The idea of planting a seed into eighth graders as to whether or not the Holocaust happened was not smart. The Holocaust happened. It is a fact.
An author writing in one of my favorite publications, National Review Online, said that the Holocaust did happen but to debate that fact is a good thing, ostensibly to get the students to think critically. That latter statement, too, is wrong.
The question is not whether eighth graders can handle an argument about Holocaust denial (some would argue that is debatable in itself) but is there any room for even the merest beginnings of a slippery slope when it comes to teaching the Holocaust? There is not.
The Holocaust was a unique event in human history. For the only time, the might of a modern, cultured nation was used in an attempt to exterminate an entire race of people with industrial methods. Were there other genocides in history that are worthy of attention, especially those overlooked by radical leftists, such as those brought by Communist China and the Soviet Union? Yes, there have been but the Holocaust, or Shoah, was unique in its industry, ideology, racism, totality, and universality.
The Holocaust was the culmination, yet sadly not the end, of a nearly continuous harassment, and often persecution, of the Jewish people that stems from the days of Pharaoh.
The horror of the Holocaust is also unique, from the perpetrators who said that “Even if you could prove the unprovable, you would still have to make the unbelievable believable” to the Jews who were faced with “choice less choices.” The totality of truth in the Holocaust comes from videos, testimony, and documents of the perpetrators, victims, and bystanders. To question this, even for intellectual exercise, is one step away from questioning “Are we really here on this earth?” Further, it unintentionally plays into the hands of the deniers.
The anti-Semites, leading Holocaust denial, are gaining strength in Europe after being well entrenched in the Middle East. Searching simple key words on the internet such as “Holocaust” “Jews Gas Chamber” reveals a plethora of deeply troubling sites of Holocaust denial. While this may not seem a big deal to those who enjoy Judeo-Christian freedoms in America and other nations, it is the young, the vulnerable, the searching, and the hurting that see these sites without the necessary education to combat them. Further, even a Judeo-Christian heritage does not make one immune to anti-Semitism. No nation is inherently immune from the possibility of such evil and the Holocaust shows that.
Germany was a leading power that in many facets of industry, art, education, and culture led the world. It was a civilized country. There was no war aim to be achieved by killing the Jews and many, if not most of the people involved in The Final Solution, were ordinary people. It was from there that the Holocaust, in all its bureaucracy and industrial “production,” came. The evil that came may or may not have been a purely German phenomenon but it certainly was, and is, a sinful condition that knows no geographical boundaries. Indeed the history of persecution of the Jews, by many different peoples, over thousands of years, attests that fact.
Sadly, the battle to prove an historical fact sadly is still being fought. The goal should be to actively equip children to fight this evil at its sources and confront its deniers. Further, teaching the Holocaust as fact can even give inspiration.
Clergy who hid Jews and stood up to the Nazis directly, Christian mothers adopted Jewish babies only to later give them back to the Jewish faith after the war, the resistance fighters, and the ‘Righteous Among The Nations’ are facts that should be taught to serve as courage in the face this and future evils. These are the stories to teach children.
The Holocaust deniers, if they cannot win, often take a strategy of creating doubt such as “only one million died” and “most who died were in labor camps” amongst other arguments. People who are not, I repeat not, sympathetic to Nazism can get sucked into the game plan of those who want to see Holocaust denial become a reality. The Holocaust deniers will look for any tool to minimize Holocaust, including the freedom of the internet in Western nations. To send schoolchildren trekking into this desert, without further guidance, sets them up for disaster.
The standards of Western Civilization have been pushed back, almost imperceptibly, through the generations; slow enough to where only a perspective of history makes it noticeable. There are few sacred truths left in the minds of many. Teaching the uniqueness of the Holocaust, and actively combatting its denial, are items that are not open to compromise.
Legitimate questions to consider might be, “How much did the German people know about the Holocaust?,” “When did the Holocaust begin?,” “When was the Fuhrer order?,” ”If you had to choose would you allow the death of one of your loved ones, or fifty people you did not know?,” “Was the Holocaust unique to Germany?,” “What was the role of Christians?,” “How has the relationship between Christians and Jews changed since the Holocaust?,” and “Was road to Auschwitz paved by intentionalism or functionalism (someone really interested in the Holocaust will debate that question for hours). If someone is not prepared to tackle these questions first, they are not as equipped as they should be to tackle Holocaust denial.
The twisted path to Auschwitz, stemming from a supposedly civilized country, happened for many reasons. Moral relativism, and questioning even the sacred, were among them. The school apologized for the assignment; rightfully so. May no one ever again, regardless of political affiliation or purpose, let seeds of Holocaust doubt be planted in our children. In doing so we can continue to help ensure that the Holocaust never happens again.