I’ve recently revisited a classic book on a subject about which I can not quench my thirst. It is the story of a boy who, for reasons unknown, survives the Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald. He wasn’t exceptionally brave or strong, but rather, an average boy who survived one of the most horrific times in human history to tell the tale.
I picked up this classic at my local thrift store over the weekend. It’s cover crinkled by water stains; every few pages ear-marked telling how voraciously the reader before you took in the book. My pension for all things Nazi Germany began as a young girl upon my first reading of The Diary of Anne Frank. I read the story for the first time when I was the same age as young Anne.
This same weekend, an article came out in my local newspaper with the headline, “Florida Failing in Holocaust Education.” Talk about irony, but I was disturbed and enraged by some of the article’s statistics. I won’t go into every disturbing fact, but here are a few: “The results indicate a lack of understanding of key historical facts. In Florida, 61% of respondents do not know that six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, with 31% believing that the total number of Jews killed in the Holocaust was two million or less.
Additionally, although there were more than 40,000 camps and ghettos in Europe during the Holocaust, 47% of Florida respondents cannot name a single one. Only 69% could identify Germany as one of the countries where the Holocaust took place.
The analysis found that 13% of Millennials and Gen Z in Florida feel the Jews caused the Holocaust; 8% believe the United States caused the Holocaust, and 5% believe that Israel, which didn’t even exist at the time, caused the Holocaust.
Only 37% know that the Holocaust also targeted homosexuals, and 27% know that people with disabilities were targeted (Winikoff, 2020).
The feeling left in my gut after reading the article leads to the oft-repeated but seldom observed quote, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”
― Edmund Burke
Oppression is nothing new. It is all around us, and for some unknown reason, humans are addicted. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel in the twenty-first century; we only need to look in our not so distant past to see the atrocity of human capability. Imagine being ripped from your home you are raising your children in, shipped off to concentration camps where you may or may not be selected to be immediately killed based on your biology. Your survival has nothing to do with merit, education level, or accomplishments. Imagine watching your dentist’s brutal beating, or your neighbors searching for their children that were ripped from their hands when they arrived. Imagine the annihilation of your entire community.
To bring this article back to young Anne Frank, I think what has always got me back to that story again and again at different points in my life is that she is just so relatable. She describes herself as a bundle of contradictions when telling the tale of her time in the Annex. The abrupt end of the book comes just as she’s examining her own life and personality in great detail. This resilient and feisty girl survived in the small cramped space wonderfully. Her coping skills were impressive for her age and the gut-wrench you feel after the diary ends, and you know what happens next is enough to take your breath away.
Winikoff, M. (2020, September 17). Florida failing in Holocaust education. Retrieved September 22, 2020, from https://www.hometownnewstc.com/news/florida-failing-in-holocaust-education/article_db9ba6a6-f8ec-11ea-a2f5-978abb835592.html