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Is the New Generation Forgetting the Holocaust?

By Divya Pitamber

The millennial generation, born between the years of 1980 to 2000, are gradually taking the place of baby boomers.

They are a diverse group, not only in age, but also in the major events that they have experienced. Millennials are known to be progressive and are not afraid to use past experiences to influence social movements, such as Black Lives Matter. However, despite this progressive streak, is this generation at the same time forgetting one of history’s most infamous genocides, the Holocaust?

A study commissioned by the Jewish Materials Claims Against Germany found that in a study of 1,350 Americans, aged 18 and older, millennials (aged 18-34) believed that the estimated number of Jews killed was two million or less, when the actual estimated number is about six million. Additionally, 70 percent of participants of the study said that fewer people seem to care about the Holocaust than they used to, and while there were dozens of camps used during this atrocity, some 45 percent of participants could not name a single one, with the percentage being higher for millenials.

There a several reasons that could explain these troubling findings. Most millenials do not know a Holocaust survivor, meaning they have no personal connection to the event. Additionally, there are no current genocides that are on the scale of the Holocaust in the media that they can track in real time on social media, an increasingly large scale method used by most millenials to stay updated on news.

Thus, the only place millennials would be exposed to information on the Holocaust is at an educational institution, and currently only 11 states in the United States require Holocaust education in their secondary school curriculum, with Oregon being the most recent. Considering the growing amount of growing anti-Semitism now present in the United States, it is vital, especially now, to teach the young generation the historical context of the Holocaust and how it lead to the death of an estimated 6 million Jews.

In Feburary 2019, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik introduced the Never Again Education Act. This would create a grant program at the U.S. Department of Education to provide teachers across the U.S. with the necessary materials needed to accurately and fully teach about the Holocaust, and it represents a step in the right direction to keep the Holocaust in the minds of the younger generation.

The Holocaust fundamentally altered the foundations of our social institutions in its display of how abuse of political power could be used to turn a population against a targeted group through fear-monguring and propaganda. In keeping with this level of significance, and given educational institutions’ obligation to educate young people on important topics and events, the Holocaust must be taught in order for the new generation to be socially aware of this disregard for human life.

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