The Holocaust is being forgotten.
As the war in which six million European Jews were murdered slowly recedes into history, survivors and their death-camp liberators are dying off. The world is losing its last remaining witnesses.
And as far-right leaders in some of the nations where the Holocaust was perpetrated rewrite their national histories, there is an ugly and not unrelated resurgence of anti-Semitism.
So although public surveys show most Americans and Europeans know at least something about the Holocaust, this knowledge is often superficial. Moreover, school curricula on both sides of the Atlantic face an array of challenges in educating the younger generation about the Nazi persecution of the Jews.
In this episode of History As It Happens, a former educator in South Carolina, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, and a political scientist based in Europe share their views about the state of Holocaust studies on both continents and the never-ending fight against anti-Semitism.
“We have not done a great job nationally to educate our kids,” said Dr. Lilly Filler, a professional physician whose parents Jadzia and Ben Stern survived the Shoah.
Dr. Filler is the chair of the South Carolina Council on the Holocaust, a state-funded educational group that is part of the larger Association of Holocaust Organizations.
The group’s executive director is Scott Auspelmyer, who taught in public schools for 19 years. South Carolina is one of 31 states where Holocaust education is not mandatory, but it is part of the standard state curricula anyway.
“In any given state, you have the challenge that if a social studies teacher is going to teach the Holocaust, how much time will they legitimately have within the context of everything else they are teaching?” Mr. Auspelmyer said.
As serious knowledge and public memorializing of the Holocaust fade with time, anti-Semitism and the scrubbing of history march on, said Veronica Anghel, an expert on post-Communist Europe at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
“All high school history manuals are built with the idea of shaping national identities,” she said.
Thus, in Poland, Austria and Hungary, for example, there is an emphasis on national victimhood at the hands of the Nazi occupiers while minimizing the countries’ complicity in the deportation of Jews.
To listen to this wide-ranging discussion about the current state of Holocaust studies in U.S. and European classrooms and the resurgence of anti-Semitism, download this episode of History As It Happens.