More than 70 years after the end of the Second World War, Holocaust education is as important as ever and the lessons we can draw from it are as timely as ever and remain relevant in a modern world too.
It was possible for this to happen, and it remains possible for it to happen again at any minute. Only in knowledge can it be prevented.Karl Jaspers, 1953
There are many reasons to still research, teach and learn about the Holocaust. One of these is to remember and commemorate the lives of upwards of the six million European Jews and other innocent victims, including one and a half million children, who were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators.
An equally important reason to continue teaching the Holocaust is to learn from the lessons that it offers us all. The Holocaust is not an exclusively Jewish issue. It is an issue and event that affects and concerns society as a whole. Genocide is the biggest crime against humanity and the near annihilation of any group of people is a loss to us all. One of the only ways we can try to prevent such atrocities from happening again, to anyone, is to teach about them.
The Holocaust is also a topic through which we can promote tolerance and encourage people to combat hate, racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice. The Holocaust did not happen in a void, it was not a stand-alone event, and European anti-Semitism did not turn genocidal overnight; it was a process. To know that there was a long road to Auschwitz draws attention to the fact that any kind of hatred is insidious and dangerous.
Furthermore, the Holocaust provides a starting point to teach about the importance of human rights as well as the importance of being an ‘upstander’. Many Holocaust survivors attribute their survival to a combination of sheer luck but also to those who stood up for them, in some cases risking their lives to do so (i.e. the Righteous Among the Nations). On the flip side, without the active and passive collaboration of local populations, the Nazis could not have implemented their genocidal policies to the extent they did. Teaching this, in this way, empowers students to understand that their actions matter and that on a personal level we can all do something to prevent injustices.
It is our mission at the Adelaide Holocaust Museum and Steiner Education Centre to educate students and the general public about not only the history of the Holocaust but also to draw the universal, relevant and timely lessons from it to foster a generation who want to create a more peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, compassionate and secure world.