HOLOCAUST EDUCATION IN PEDAGOGY, HISTORY, AND PRACTICE 126 This is important to know and teach because: People mistakenly define “fighting back” as only using weapons. In the complexity of teaching the Holocaust, we must teach the multiple ways of defining “resistance and fighting back.” Fighting back did not only mean killing the enemy, it meant maintaining dignity, adhering to your cultural and religious beliefs and practices and in the death camps, holding onto your humanity. Mais (2007) includes the following piece about Rabbi Oshry, a Holocaust survivor. [He] “paid tribute to both physical and spiritual expressions of resistance to the German occupation. Recalling this period in his life, he said: “One resists with a gun, another with his soul.”(p.25) 4 Didn’t Hitler murder other people and not just Jews? Asked by: Molly, private Jewish school, Grade 12 Nationalism Socialism and its followers persecuted many individuals and groups based on what they determined, or perceived, were social, political or ideological differences. Among the groups who were victims of Nazi persecution were Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, Soviet prisoners of war, political dissidents, Roma and Sinti, Poles and Slavic peoples, and those with mental and physical disabilities. Although there is no hierarchy of suffering, it is important to understand that different groups were targeted for different reasons, were treated differently, faced different consequences, and suffered different fates. Initially, Jews were singled out and isolated wherever they lived; wherever the German sphere of influence encountered them. Marginalised from society, robbed of their homes and livelihoods, forced into ghettos and deported to killing centres and concentration camps or rounded up and killed in mass shootings by mobile killing squads, this coordinated attempt to murder the Jewish people is known as the Holocaust, or Shoah in Hebrew. Also singled out for persecution and genocide on so-called racial grounds were the Roma and Sinti peoples who lived in Europe for over 1,000 years. The genocide of the Roma took place simultaneously with the Holocaust. Roma and Sinti were also murdered in death camps, and died of starvation and disease in forced labour and concentration camps. Many more were deported and exploited as forced labour on farms, construction sites and in industry. The genocide of the Roma and Sinti is also referred to as the Porajamos or Samudaripen. Precise vocabulary assists us in understanding not only the complex nature of the Holocaust, but also how other groups were treated.
This is important to know and teach because: We must be certain that our students, tomorrow’s teachers and leaders, understand that the goal of Nazism was to destroy and eradicate Jews from the entire world, wherever they lived. Hitler had plans to create the “Museum to the Extinct Race” in the Jewish Quarter of Prague when the Second World War was over. To this end, the Germans issued orders to catalogue thousands of religious and cultural items that were confiscated from Jews in the Czech lands. A vast collection survived and today is housed at the Jewish Museum of Prague. We must also underscore that the pre-Holocaust Jewish communities were well-integrated into their European environments. Jews spoke the language(s) of their country, often served in the military of their country, and many saw themselves as patriots. They did not pose any threat to the Germans or other countries, nor did they possess the power, land, or social or political influence that antisemitic propaganda thrust upon the general public. 5 Why do we still study the Holocaust? Asked by: Jayla, public school, Grade 10 The Holocaust was a defining moment in the history of the world and for humanity. It raises not only historical questions but moral, ethical, spiritual, religious, and philosophical issues, as well as matters of national and personal identity. Some historians and philosophers have referred to the Holocaust as a rupture with modernity that challenged the very core of civilisation and the Enlightenment values such as tolerance, pluralism, autonomy, and respect for individual and human rights. Others have described it as the annulment of the emancipation of the Jews of Europe (when Jews were given full rights of citizenship and discriminatory laws against them were dismantled in the nineteenth century). 127 HOLOCAUST EDUCATION IN PEDAGOGY, HISTORY, AND PRACTICE Also, there is the enormous humanitarian toll that resulted from the Holocaust and the Second World War. Historian Doris Bergen (2016, p.304) notes, “An estimated 10 million refugees poured into western zone of occupied Germany alone, those parts controlled by the United States, Britain and France.” This humanitarian crisis resulted in more than 150,000 Jews living in Displaced Persons camps in the U.S. occupation zones. For many of these individuals, and those who were murdered in the Holocaust, no measure of justice could atone for all that was lost, including six million Jews. There is no redemptive message in the Holocaust, but we can honour the memory of the victims, learn about and from the Holocaust in the quest to build a fair and just civil society.