Every year, Jan. 27 is set aside as a day of remembrance for the 11 million people who were systemically murdered by the Nazi regime during the Holocaust. International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorates the liberation of Auschwitz, a concentration camp in Poland, by the Red Army in 1945. This year was the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation and marks what many see as an opportunity to reinforce the necessity of Holocaust education. One attempt to honor the Holocaust in the United States included a bill that was voted on in the House of Representatives. The bill was created to establish a federal program to fund and further Holocaust education throughout the country. It awards $10 million to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s education programs, which give teachers resources and information on Holocaust education. Over the next five years, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum will be required to improve Holocaust awareness through these programs and educational endeavors.
On Jan. 23, a few days prior to the anniversary of liberation, the 5th World Holocaust Forum was held in Israel’s Holocaust memorial museum, Yad Vashem. Among those who attended the ceremony were delegates from nearly 50 countries including royalty, prime ministers, presidents and parliamentary leaders. A large group of survivors were also present. The Ukrainian President even donated his delegation’s seats to allow more survivors who had never visited Israel’s memorial museum the chance to attend the forum. This year’s motto for the event was “Remembering the Holocaust: Fighting Anti-Semitism.” Many delegates that attended said that they wish to stand with the Jewish people against anti-Semitism, countering the notion of denying the Holocaust took place.
As Holocaust survivors age, and begin to pass away, Holocaust denial becomes a real challenge. According to surveys conducted by Pew Research Center and Claims Conference, about 31 percent of Americans believe that 2 million Jews or less were killed in the Holocaust. This is far less than the 6 million Jews who were actually murdered during the Holocaust. Holocaust education in the U.S. is so inadequate that nearly half of Americans can’t name a concentration camp or ghetto. It is no coincidence that surveys are finding that fewer and fewer people understand and are educated on the severities of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism. Only 12 states in the U.S. require that Holocaust education be included in secondary schools’ curriculum leaving the remaining 38 states to choose whether or not it is important enough to be included in the curriculum.
With the current rise of anti-Semitism throughout the world and the more recent rise of Holocaust denial, it’s obvious that repeating the mantra of “Never forget,” to all those that will listen is less effective. As we lose those who survived the Holocaust, it is important to continue to tell their stories through museums, video testimonies, books and the passing of legislation which makes Holocaust education mandatory throughout the country. We must never forget, and we must work to make sure that no one else does either.