I was shocked to read Leyna Krow’s piece about the Holocaust (“Opting out,” April 9), although I am assured that her opinion represents those of many others in her generation. That shock stems from my own view of Holocaust education based on my being a speaker for the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center for more than 10 years and another five in Connecticut before that. We who talk to students believe wholeheartedly that the Holocaust is not merely an event that occurred 70 years ago on another continent. Rather, the Holocaust had repercussions throughout the so-called civilized world, and it is our privilege and our responsibility to use that searing experience of the 20th century in our teaching moments.
In teaching young people about the Holocaust, my speaker colleagues and I have numerous lessons to transmit that would be lost if we acquiesced to Ms. Krow’s attitude. A sampling of those lessons includes these:
• The Holocaust is a Christian problem because the Churches, both Catholic and Protestant, failed so miserably to live up to their moral obligations of protesting against the Nazis and their methods and of failing to protect the Jewish populations in their areas.
• Many non-Jews stood by and either watched as their Jewish neighbors were taken away to the camps or actively helped by turning them in to the Nazi authorities.
• A relative handful of non-Jews risked their lives and those of their families by helping Jews who were hungry or needed shelter.
• Numerous Jewish heroes rescued other Jews, many of them children.
• Jewish prisoners blew up several death camps and escaped into the woods to join partisan forces, thereby dispelling the myth that “the Jews went like sheep to their deaths.”
• The Holocaust shows the moral weakness of people who stood and watched even though they had been friendly with the Jews before the Nazi time.
• The incidents of bullying in schools and neighborhoods today are strongly reminiscent of the Nazi time, when a minority was being persecuted and a majority knew and stood by silently.
• Students need concrete examples of heroic rescuer figures after whom they can pattern their behavior to stop bullying of their classmates.
I would be pleased to have Ms. Krow accompany me to my next speaking assignment so she can see how I use the Holocaust and how crucial it is for me to mention it specifically. The Holocaust is, as I use it in my talks, highly relevant and badly needed. Students and other young people can learn best about morality by confronting the most extreme example of immoral behavior in human history, and that one example is the Holocaust.