It has been over 70 years since the Holocaust began. Seventy years, yet the amount of time that’s passed doesn’t make light of the fact that it was one of the most disturbing events in world history. In school I always learned the main facts – who caused it, how it happened and how many people were killed; yet, I always learned about it from a “neutral” perspective. Class taught us about how it began in Europe and how each European country was affected – but America was left out. Naturally, I assumed that the United States was in the dark while Nazi extremism was growing and 11 million people were killed.
Visiting the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. and seeing their brand new exhibit “Americans and the Holocaust,” I was floored by what I learned. The smallest towns in America had headlines mentioning Nazi extremism or a protest against it, just like we have headlines about the war in Syria or climate change. Pictures showed Americans supporting refugees, yet documents hinted that many Americans were not supportive of accepting them. The exhibit showed that although we were separated by an ocean over 3,000 miles away, we were still involved. We had the knowledge of it, so therefore we were part of it as well.
In the future as we reflect on the Holocaust and the several other horrific genocides that followed around the world, it’s important to learn how to prevent them. Students should keep in mind that the way to end a cycle of brutality is to stop it when it begins, stand up for what’s right and help others as soon as you are aware that something is wrong. Although each country around the world is dramatically different and has its own history to learn from, we are all connected in some way. Let’s strengthen that connection and look out for one another.
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