The Holocaust is a name that was given to the genocide of approximately six million Jewish people during the Second World War. The Holocaust provides an understanding of the intolerance of religion and how power can cause individuals to perform heinous acts. The Holocaust is important to the discussion of religion and how it plays an imperative role in establishing the identities of ethnicities and races. While many events have been examined throughout history using religion as the backdrop, none of them compare to the historical aspects that the Holocaust represents.
The place of Jews in the society of Europe had always been noted as a kind of expatriate. Christian Europe saw the Jews in their midst as radicals against what they deemed the true religion. The Jewish people were usually excluded from the mainstream social life and forced to wear clothing that proclaimed their individuality and confined them to living in expressly marked areas of towns and cities. In the tumult following the First World War, voices were known for blaming the Jewish people for Germany's mortification. During the 1930s, at the time of the Nazi rise to power, Germany was experiencing severe economic hardship and as a result, Adolf Hitler used the Jewish people as the scapegoat, blaming them for the issues that plagued Germany. Germany had been dishonored by the Treaty of Versailles which had reduced its prewar region, considerably reduced its armed forces and set reparations to the allied powers. The oppression of the Jewish people began methodically following Hitler's tyrannical rise to power. The Nazis would introduce anti-Jewish decrees which sought to eliminate the Jewish people entirely (Gilbert, 1987; "The Holocaust: An Introductory History," 2013). The Jewish people were regularly victimized and mortified as a result. Elie Wiesel recounts this terrible time in history in his book, Night.
1938 proved to be central to the Holocaust. Texts incorporate the event known as Kristallnacht, which means the Night of Broken Glass. The name itself refers to a wave of anti-Jewish sentiment that was rampant throughout Germany and spilled over into areas of Czechoslovakia and Austria. The event itself took place on November 9 and 10 and was organized by Nazi Party officials in an effort to destroy Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues (Gilbert, 1987). The significance of this is noted in literature on the subject of the Holocaust written by Jewish historians and writers given the profound dynamic that this would have on the Jewish population during Hitler’s reign.
By 1942, trainload after trainload of Jewish people was transported throughout the continent of Europe to camps such as Auschwitz, Treblinka and other centers for massacre in Poland. To communicate the destruction that was occurring with the slaughtering of the Jewish people, writers have often depicted the murders as the Holocaust. Centuries of prejudice on the religious scale reinforces the principle of anti-Semitism that had resulted from a financial uncertainty, collectivism and xenophobia. To secure the assistance of their elimination, Hitler and his organization implemented what was known as the Final Solution which meant to develop existing intolerance against the Jewish people in Germany thereby putting Germany back on top as it had been before the start of World War I (Gilbert, 1987; "History of the Holocaust: An Overview," 2013). Jewish authors on the Holocaust have often noted that the Final Solution bears importance in the educational impressions of the historical event.
In 1944, President Roosevelt created what was known as the War Refugee Board to rescue refugees. After the war turned in opposition to Germany, the Germans sought to cover up the proof of the genocide and extradited prisoners who were still living to camps within the country of Germany in an effort to thwart emancipation efforts from the United States. By 1945, the final days of the Holocaust were nearing and many of the Nazi SS guards fled and Nazi Germany was no more (“History of the Holocaust: An Overview," 2013). The implication of the Holocaust both to history and the Jewish people provides an instructive discourse on faith, its relevance and the fact that bigotry existed and still exists when the concept of God enters the discussion.
The Holocaust remains a pivotal educational testament to religious intolerance. Though the event is central to Jewish history, education about is a mandatory element in most educational systems. Many systems divide Holocaust education into epochs in an effort to present the material as unique and to designate it as needing to be discussed separately. The three periods of designation as noted by Schatzker (1992) are demonization and psychological repression which followed the actual Holocaust; the instrumental period of the 1970s and 1980s and the existential period in the 1990s and forward. Much has been performed with regard to Holocaust media and its importance to Jewish history as well. Porat (2004) states that the Holocaust shifts the educational system from what is considered to be a marginal event to defining the identity of the Jewish religion in spite of the national humiliation of the individuals at the time (Gross, 2010).
Texts have depicted that educating people on the importance of the Holocaust should be done using a realistic approach. In the educational aspect, a minute amount of Jewish literature has often concentrated on the interconnectedness associated with the Holocaust and the Jewish people. Works by individual authors depicting the identity of the Jewish people at that time often are diaries and representations. Anne Frank, Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi are prime examples of documents that have expressed a realistic dynamic to the education of the Holocaust (Gross, 2010; Kluge and Williams, 2009). In essence, the Holocaust allows for both challenges and goals to be achieved in edifying its significance to history and the Jewish people.
Diverse presentations and approaches to religious commentary and commemoration of the Holocaust have been exemplified immensely through the construction of museums and other movements to create a necessary understanding of the religious statement that Hitler had made regarding the Jewish people as well as a kind of rebirth towards the Jewish religion in education. Memory plays a key role in helping students of all diversities and backgrounds acknowledge the Holocaust and its considerable effects within the context of spirituality and religious. Despite the fact that many Jewish people often recall the varying depths to which the Holocaust affected them versus how it affects others, the public reactions to such a systematic commemoration bears mentioning (Ofer, n.d.). This is one of the problems often cited in Holocaust education and recollection despite the value of it.
The provocation of Holocaust recollection is both for engaging conversation and emotional experiences. In 1985, the Holocaust was deemed a mandatory subject in high schools throughout Israel, and as a result many nations began adopting this same context. While the subject matter is not necessarily mandatory, the majority of classrooms see the importance of showcasing the event and putting it in the respective context of Jewish history and understanding of religious intolerance (Ofer, n.d.; Gross, 2010). Many critics of Holocaust remembrance have often noted that it is more about remembering the Germans rather than the Jewish people. Yet, the event itself and its perceived acknowledgement are derived from religious education on anti-Semitism and the fact that it has no place in society as a whole.
What has been at the heart of the Holocaust discussion has been the concept of other races asking could it happen to us? This evokes the subject of human rights and Holocaust education today. The connection is typically seen as being easy to understand for adults yet demonstrating through the profession of teaching is another story. Teachers seem to have problems focusing their intent on what to discuss in the classroom. Teachers understand that they must deal with the complex topic in detail when teaching it to individuals of all age groups in relation to the human rights discussion (Bunch et.al, 2013).
The conceptualization of could this happen to us becomes an even more pivotal facet in Holocaust education. Jewish writers have often stated that the phenomenon of the Holocaust forces every individual to examine discrimination and racism in a closer context through the lens of the German intolerance of the Jewish people. They have also noted the differences in Holocaust education in both the East and the West. It appears as though the majority of Holocaust education in the East focuses intently on Germans as victims, whereas a prevailing theme in the West exhibits the Jewish people as victims causing a sacredness mentality about the Holocaust. Many Eastern Holocaust educators have stated that the lack of symmetry in the classroom has exposed the West to a more confrontational system of teaching and this in turn fosters a rift. Jewish writers contend that in spite of the disconnect in Holocaust education, teachers have often adjusted their methodologies in helping students gain the necessary knowledge of the historical event (Bunch et.al, 2013). A comprehension of what anti-Semitism is, and its unique characteristics, must be understood by the teacher in order for that individual to express the particulars of how the event has shaped the Jewish people and the world at large.
The Holocaust and its prolific education have been widely publicized by Jewish people. One of the more noteworthy aspects of the Holocaust was Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List. The story itself however extends far beyond media hype. The effects of the Holocaust are far-reaching and profound. Contemporary generations of Jewish people have often faced the challenge of educating the public on the Holocaust and its importance as the event still captivates public imagination as well as sparks controversy (Gibson and Jones, 2012). The question comes how far one goes in educating the public. Sure, textbook literature in most parts of the world covers the subject, but given the rise of other mediums to where the Holocaust can be noted, it has created a discussion. Literature on the Jewish people and the Holocaust has expressed the preservation efforts to accurately exhibit the perpetuation of memory.
Essentially, questions have been raised in recent years of the impact of remembrance of survivors as many of them are dwindling at accelerating rates. Our collective memory is important to us therefore, the Jewish people have continued to seek ways to remember the event in spite of the brutality that it portrayed. "Remembrance reifies memory; it is the act of making an imprint of memory tangible and as an action intersects with ethics, particularly in regard to the Holocaust, a moral signifier of our age. Remembrance defines the things of a culture by reinforcing who we are and the defining moments of our culture. It has the ability to influence collective thought and behavior by assigning normative meaning to signal dimensions of the communal past. Remembrance is selective about the events and people remembered as well as which details are conveyed. With a tragedy of the Holocaust’s magnitude, a society’s remembrance culture must determine how it will address the most precious task of preserv[ing] the cultural lifeblood of oppressed peoples (Gibson and Jones, 2012).
Perhaps, the Holocaust and its importance to our historical dialogue and religious discussion are revealed through its traumatic undercurrent. Contemporary culture and religion have often peered through the lens of history and were able to understand the consciousness of the people that went through events such as the Holocaust. The Holocaust has a relatability factor as ethical context because of the spiritual dimensions that it expresses in clear totality. The Holocaust speaks to tolerance on many different levels. Historians such as Heinrich Graetz, have noted that Jewish history lends itself to the suffering and learning within both the intellectual and the spiritual dynamic. The Jewish people then have stressed the relevance of their liberation from Nazi Germany in relation to everyone's liberation (Biale, 1986). This speaks to the aforementioned statement on how many ethnicities see themselves in the Jewish people's shoes understanding that it could happen to them as well given the many religions that exist in the world today.
On some level then, individuals are able to achieve both a cognitive and emotional balance through examining the significance of the Holocaust. "Beyond its conceptual and heuristic value, the effort to create ontological and epistemological periods has educational value. It enables us to trace the linear process of knowledge development that created Holocaust consciousness, from the actual experience of the Holocaust to the stage of constructing, deconstructing, and reflecting; thus, it hints at the potential relationship between knowledge and attitude. Moreover, it may reflect the stages of awareness of a national trauma, but this idea deserves further elaboration" (Gross, 2010). There has been a cultural identity that has defined the Jewish people and that it the Holocaust.
Writers and historians alike have noted that for the religious population of Israel in particular, the Holocaust is a crucial component of Jewish identity. It strengthens the connections and the convictions of the religious itself. Human understanding is reached somewhat on the importance of religious respect and the credence that it deserves within the framework of tolerance. By learning about the Holocaust and its substance to the Jewish people, people gain an understanding of their own religion and its relevancy in establishing their identity and the way they live their lives.
Biale, D. Power, Passivity and the Legacy of the Holocaust. In Rethinking the Holocaust (pp. 68-73). Tikkun Magazine. (Reprinted from Power and Powerlessness in Jewish History, 1986, Schocken)
Bunch, K., Canfield, M., & Schöler, B. (2013). The Responsibility of Knowledge: Developing Holocaust Education for the Third Generation. Retrieved from Humanity in Action Inc. http://www.humanityinaction.org/knowledgebase/226-the-responsibility-of-knowledge-developing-holocaust-education-for-the-third-generation
The Holocaust: An Introductory History. (2013). Retrieved from The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/history.html
HISTORY OF THE HOLOCAUST: AN OVERVIEW [PDF]. (2013). Retrieved from United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website: http://www.ushmm.org/education/foreducators/resource/pdf/history.pdf
Gibson, P. L., & Jones, S. (2012). Remediation and remembrance: “Dancing Auschwitz” Collective Memory and New Media. Journal for Communication Studies, 5(2), 107-131.
Gilbert, M. (1987). The Holocaust the Jewish Tragedy [PDF]. Retrieved from The Healing Project website: www.thehealingproject.net.au
Gross, Z. (2010). Holocaust education in Jewish schools in Israel: Goals, dilemmas, challenges. Prospects, 40, 93–113. doi:10.1007/s11125-010-9142-x
Kluge, A., & Williams, B. E. (Eds.). (2009). Re-examining the Holocaust through Literature. United Kingdom: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Ofer, D. (n.d.). We Israelis Remember, But How? The Memory of the Holocaust and the Israeli Experience [PDF].