In 1961, the Nazi official Adolf Eichmann was put on trial for his role in orchestrating the mass extermination of Europe’s Jews. Television, such as it was then, covered the trial closely, and accompanied it with some moving documentaries on what happened in concentration camps such as Auschwitz. My parents let me watch them. I was ten years old.
Watching the grainy footage on our black-and-white TV of bodies heaped up in mountainous piles, flies buzzing on the emaciated corpses of children, the white-washed gas chambers–for the first time in my sheltered life, I was seeing evil. I saw that sin was not just something preachers droned on about in church, but that it was real. I saw what human beings were capable of doing to other human beings. I realized the horror that tyrannical governments could unleash.
Watching those documentaries and seeing Eichmann behind his bullet-proof glass shield–such an ordinary-looking bureaucrat–played a big role in my moral and spiritual formation.
Those documentaries aren’t shown much anymore. I can see wanting to shield 10-year-olds from such things, but we apparently want to shield teenagers and college students from them as well.
A recent study has found that two-thirds of young adults in the “millennial generation” do not know what Auschwitz was. Over one in five (22%) had not heard of the Holocaust.
From Lisa Cannon Green:
If you ask a millennial about Auschwitz, don’t be surprised if you get a blank stare.
Two-thirds of millennials can’t identify the Nazi concentration camp where more than a million people died during World War II, a new study finds.
The study, released on Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 12, raises troubling questions about whether the Holocaust is disappearing from Americans’ collective memory.
In a survey of 1,350 American adults, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany found:
- 22 percent of millennials haven’t heard of the Holocaust or aren’t sure if they have heard of it.
- 49 percent can’t name a concentration camp or ghetto.
- 66 percent can’t identify Auschwitz, the largest camp.
“We are alarmed that today’s generation lacks some of the basic knowledge about these atrocities,” said Claims Conference President Julius Berman.
Comments Ben Shapiro:
This is troubling stuff.
It’s also informative, because it helps explain just why younger Americans seem so comfortable embracing identity politics and large, intrusive government. If you’d never heard of the genocide of the Jews by an all-encompassing state focused laserlike on race-based differences between people, you might be warmer to the notion that racial hierarchies in politics ought to exist. You might also be warmer to the claims of genocidal Islamist terror groups who claim that Israel is a land of victimizers. And if you’d never heard of the Soviet Union, you might be more sanguine about the possibility of socialism in the United States.
This is just one reason why teaching of history in America’s public schools matters so much. But that teaching in recent decades has revolved not around signal events in world history, but around the revisionist histories of Leftist advocates like Howard Zinn, who focus in tremendous detail on the sins of America without spelling out the true history of alternatives to the American way throughout the 20th century.
Photo, Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, by Lieutenant (Lt) Alan Moore (http://cas.awm.gov.au/item/P03007.015) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
HT: Paul McCain & Mary Moerbe