Pushing to make Holocaust Education Mandatory in schools


Diary of Anne Frank, a picture from a text book with the Anne Frank Play, being taught to children across America

Harnit Kaur, Fall Editor

There I was, sitting in class yet again. We were learning about the American Revolution for the 100th time. I don’t think we’ve ever really learned much about anything else really. I believe that we should learn about other things, such as my topic for this article, The Holocaust education provided in schools. I believe that the amount of Holocaust education we get at this age is too little, and that we’re old enough to face the truth and learn about this traumatic event in history, to make sure that we’re informed and to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself.

The first time that I had ever heard of the Holocaust was in elementary school, though I didn’t think much of it. It was only until a few years ago that I learned about it to its full extent of. I learned everything that I know about it from the internet, as with other historical events. Language arts and Journalism teacher Mr. Malmstom shared the time that he had watched a movie about the Holocaust with his mother, called ​Schindler’s List​.

Now, what are some opinions on how much Holocaust education we get in our schools? According to Mr. Miller, a history teacher here at WMS, ​there is a law mandating Holocaust education in Austria, France, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. states of California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York.​ All of my interviewees believe that there should be a greater amount of education about this subject than there is. My father, Pervinder Singh said, “We should educate our children about the cruelty that humans are capable of.” Mr Miller says that it’s “not enough, especially at the higher levels. Iit’s hard to balance how far to take it. The Holocaust has very difficult subject matter.” I have to agree with Mr. Miller with this, with the younger kids we have to set a limit as to the kind of stuff we show them, which brings us to our next question.

What grade should we start teaching children about the Holocaust? Mr Malmstrom said,“I think it should be introduced as early as elementary school.” He believes that we should at least touch on the subject and talk about what it was about, and why it happened. Pervinder Singh, my father, believes that “it should be done in middle school, they are able to understand it and comprehend it, since their brains are more developed.” I agree with my father here, we should start teaching it in about 8th grade in history class. Mr Miller continued, “I think that we should focus on is the good cases” he says that we should teach children about the good cases, but he says that the problem with that is that it wasn’t the case for a lot of people, he doesn’t want people to sugarcoat it and devalue it.

Mr Miller got the chance to go on an NJEA endorsed trip to Europe provided by the ​Jewish foundation for the Righteous​, specifically the Alfred Lerner Fellowship Program. There, he went to Poland and saw a Holocaust camp called Auschwitz, pronounced (aw-shawitz). He described the camp as “unnerving, everything is very quiet.” Miller said that everyone was given headsets to listen to what the guide was saying, because they had to be very quiet there, as to be respectful. Everyone on the tour was told to “please be respectful because you’re walking on the biggest graveyard,”according to Mr. Miller. Everyone who died there was cremated and the ashes were never picked up. Mr Miller described the ride back to their hotel the total opposite of the ride there. “Everyone was in high spirits”, says Mr. Miller. He described the ride back as quiet, and the only talking was whispering. He said,“you walk out of there a changed person.”

I hope that after reading this article you agree with me and believe that there should be more Holocaust education. I also hope you try to look more into the Holocaust. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic I understand that we cannot go out, this website we are using in Mrs. Douglas’s language arts class, where we are also reading a play about Ann Frank’s life in The Secret Annex( which I also got this picture from,provides an experience in the Ann Frank museum without actually being there. Ann Frank was a Jewish girl who went into hiding in the Netherlands, I hope ​this website ​helps you learn about life during the Holocaust as a Jewish person in hiding.