Holocaust Lacks Representation in American Public School Systems


Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Maayan Matsliah, Staff Writer

As an Israeli immigrant growing up in the United States, I find it to be unbelievable just how little attention is paid to the Holocaust in public school systems here. It would be an understatement to say that I am absolutely baffled by just how easily the inhumane murder of six million is overlooked by the American educational system. Everyone advocates for the phrase “never forget, never again,” referring to how absolutely necessary it is to never forget this tragic genocide in order to prevent any events as horrific as this from ever recurring. Nevertheless, after spending eleven years in public school systems ranging from California to New Jersey, I have found it to be rather evident that the US education system still has much room to improve in this area. 

Mr. Hutchinson, Honors Humanities teacher at Tenafly High School, attributes this problem to Americentrism. “I think that what happens, and America isn’t alone in this, is that countries tend to push the history of their own country almost exclusively,” he said. “America didn’t do the Holocaust, so it doesn’t come up in American history.” For over a decade, I have come to school almost every January 27th (US National Holocaust Remembrance Day) and am forced to sit in my chair and learn about the same topics as always rather than being educated on possibly the most atrocious genocide. When I moved to Tenafly, a town known for its substantial Jewish community, I was expecting there to be more recognition in school regarding the Holocaust than there was in my almost entirely Christian-populated school in the Bay Area of California; alas, I was wrong. It breaks my heart how easily the recognition of the deaths of six-million people can be replaced by learning about conjugation in Spanish class or factoring in math class. The lack of attention paid to this tragic genocide in school systems is not only utterly disrespectful but it also promotes the idea that the Holocaust was not a big enough deal to learn about in school.

To make matters worse, students in some states no longer have access to information to educate themselves on the Holocaust to supplement what is taught in schools. As of this year, Vero Beach High School, a public school in Indian River County, Florida, has officially banned and removed a book about Anne Frank due to it having “sexually explicit content,” according to Fox News. An additional three books were banned in the district following a new policy approval as of last month. According to chairwoman of the Moms for Liberty local chapter, Jennifer Pippin, the graphic adaptation of Frank’s diary was inappropriate for students because it features a “graphic scene” in which she walks among nude statues. It is beyond heart-breaking that such an important work, based on Anne Frank’s first-hand account of the Holocaust, should be removed from a school just because parents think that their 15-18 year old teenagers aren’t able to handle seeing some nudity.

Inevitably, it is in the hands of the future generations to promote awareness of the Holocaust so that we, as a whole, never forget the tragic deaths that six million people experienced. Seeing as only 2.2% of the United States’ population identifies as Jewish, it is not guaranteed that any of the remaining 97.8% of families will educate their children on the calamities of the Holocaust. It is for this very reason that it is more than crucial that all public schools provide students with extensive education regarding this topic. “Without a thorough history curriculum and without teaching students how to look at history critically, it can easily happen that history can get white-washed,” Mr. Hutchinson said. “People really have the tendency to believe what they want to believe, so we can never forget the Holocaust and other incidents of crimes against humanity. It’s terrifying to me how easily people will believe a version of history that they want to believe.” 

Hopefully, future generations will have access to an education system that places a respectable amount of recognition on what is considered the most horrific genocide to date by many. Regardless of how much time passes from the Holocaust, whether it be decades, centuries,  or millennia, we must never forget the true horrors committed by anti-Semitic segregation.