“Never again” was the cry after the world fully learned of the Holocaust that claimed six million Jews during Hitler’s systematic campaign of their annihilation to give way to the Aryan race. This was even the essence of the 1948 Convention Against Genocide, the international law that “obliges contracting parties to prevent and punish the crime of genocide” (Chollet, “The Age of Genocide”). Although the genocide happened in World War II, the challenge now is to preserve the integrity and history of the Holocaust for the succeeding generations.
This proves to be a challenge especially in the present generation’s penchant for myopia cultivated by a style of instant gratification and very little collective memory of the past. The further generations become from the horrors of the Holocaust, the more uphill the climb of passing the historical torch would be. There is a saying that if we do not learn from history, we are bound to repeat it. This is one important reason why it is imperative that stories of the Holocaust and its lessons should be passed to the succeeding generations.
The present is a by-product of the past and to better grasp it is to avoid the mistakes that were painfully learned by those ahead of us. A recent survey conducted by Genocide Watch, the Coordinator for the International Campaign to End Genocide, revealed that “more than 70 occurrences of genocide that have taken place between 1945 and 2002” (Lederer, “History, eye witness accounts”). From the historians’ point of view, they are wary that the impending death of the last few survivors might erode the significance of the Holocaust in the succeeding generations.
Preserving the history of the Holocaust is essential in relinquishing it properly to the next generation. In books and videotapes, thousands of these survivors’ stories have been documented for future young bloods to glean wisdom from (Lederer, “History, eye witness accounts”). Part of having a living memory of the Holocaust helps in the shaping of national identity especially of the countries involved during those bleak years of termination.
On the 60th anniversary of the Soviet liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp, Tara Pepper of Newsweek wrote that “Within Germany, recent soul-searching connected with this year’s anniversaries has reinforced the sense that coming to terms with history is a vital part of national identity” (“The Future of the Past”). The same article pointed out that the passage of time opens the gate of understanding about the particular events of the dark period slowly being pieced together by recent historians.
Not only events can have better appreciation by the present and for the succeeding generations but personalities involved as well in the organized planning of the eradication of the Jewish people. Recently, a $33 million film in Europe about Hitler’s last days, “Der Untergang,” initiated strong debates about his person. The recent influx of Holocaust deniers should be an alarming bell that the Shoah is slowly becoming a distant memory, almost an ancient history to those who are not better informed and a more distant story to those who are yet to be born.
Situations like these are essential for critical thinking of the period as opposed to just being passive recipients of prepared information. As Russian President Vladimir Putin said, “We will never stop asking ourselves over and over again the same question: How could this ever have happened? ” (Bushnell, “60th anniversary”). Despite its modernity, there is still so much prejudice, discrimination, and violence in our world today. They come in many forms and names. As students, I believe we can be catalysts for change in our own or our collective way. It starts with one’s self.
We can practice being fair to others from our homes where we have our daily family interactions and to our communities where we meet other families. We can either learn being fair in our homes or in our schools which is considered as our second homes. Being fair means giving one his or her due. We can be effective agents of change by respecting other people’s uniqueness in terms of their culture, beliefs and practices. America is a melting pot of different cultures and it is not difficult to find someone who looks, speaks, acts, differently from us. Being kind to others is the way to peace.
Violence begets violence. If we grow up in a culture of violence, we learn to appreciate only violence. But the good news is that we are not born violent. Being a peaceful person can be taught and learned. As students we can counter violence, which often lead to hate crime among the youth, by practicing peaceful ways to resolve disagreements and conflicts. We can agree to disagree, so to speak. The youth has a voice. That voice is powerful. Students around the world have always been active in movements against prejudice, violence, and discrimination.
In America, the youth were one of the prime movers against racial discrimination in the 1960s and against the wars that the nation had gotten into like the Vietnam and Korean wars. Students can join campaigns to end prejudice, violence, and discrimination. We can write to local dailies every so often any press release about the subjects or comment actively about any news relating to it by sending letters to the editor. Students can also suggest to their respective community’s about policies concerning the prevention of prejudice, violence, and discrimination.