Holocaust And Genocide Studies Should Be Mandatory
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Holocaust & Genocide Studies Should Be Mandatory For All High School Students

"Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

Holocaust & Genocide Studies Should Be Mandatory For All High School Students
Kole Musgrove

Last year I had a distinct pleasure and immense honor of meeting a man named Alter Wiener in person. Alter is one of the few remaining Holocaust survivors in the world today, and he was generous enough to let my mother, my sister, and myself come to visit him at his Hillsboro, Oregon home to hear his story.

At only 13, Alter witnessed his father murdered by the Nazis when they invaded Poland. Just two years later he was sent to the Blechhammer forced labor camp. By the time the Russians liberated him on May 9th, 1945 (a day he affectionately refers to as his second birthday, as he was "reborn" into the world) he had survived five different camps. He weighed only 80 pounds.

Even at the age of 92, Alter is still afflicted by emotional, mental, and physical trauma from the Holocaust. Yet what makes Alter so remarkable has been his decision to turn his pain to spread a message of love, tolerance, and education. The juxtaposition of heartbreak and inspiration from his story made an impact I will never forget for as long as I live. For all the horror he faced and still suffers from as a result, Alter has chosen to rise above it and turn his hurt into a force for good.

Alter's decision to let love be the determining factor in how you live your life is something I think about daily. In every aspect of my life whether I was spurned by a friend, had a frustrating day at work, or felt slighted by anyone in any way, I just think back to what is written on the last page of my copy of his book: "Better than bitter." If he could work to live that way, then how could I not when I deal with minor issues when compared to what he had to endure.

Alter's story is something everyone should learn about, as well as the stories of other survivors. This is why I believe it is so imperative Holocaust and Genocide education becomes mandatory in these United States. The systematic atrocities committed against the Jewish people must be taught to every student.

There is something else written on the last page of the book as well, something haunting that will always stick with me: "All Jews were victims, not all victims were Jews." Once the Jewish people were allowed to be marginalized and dehumanized, it became all too easy to do the same for the gypsies, the homosexuals, the invalids, and any political dissident.

The frightening reality of the Holocaust is that if we are not vigilant it could happen to any group of people. Even today, our hearts shatter as we hear of the Syrians gassing their own people and the Myanmar government brutalizing the Rohingya Muslims, as well as so many other nightmares around the globe.

I am a firm believer that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. We must not shy away from the darkest chapters of human history. We must not cover up the deepest stains and pretend they simply do not exist. The Holocaust and the overall study of genocides must be taught.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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