Photo: Courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
As schools around the world continue to monitor the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, the safety and continued learning of our HMH community remain our top priorities. This Q&A includes links to valuable resources that can be accessed from home and are designed to help students learn and grow without interruption.
Americans know far less about the Holocaust than we realize. Millennials know even less. How do we know? In February 2018, The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany conducted a survey of 1,350 Americans aged 18 and over.
The survey results are troublesome, particularly for millennials (those born between 1981–1996).
- 22% of millennials either have not heard or are not sure if they have heard about the Holocaust. The word itself is not well known.
- 41% of millennials believe that 2 million Jews or less were killed during the Holocaust. Approximately 6 million were murdered.
- 49% of millennials could not name a concentration camp or ghetto in Europe during the Holocaust. There were over 40,000 of such places.
It’s no surprise then, according to the survey, that 70% of Americans believe that fewer people seem to care about the Holocaust than they did in the past, and 58% believe a Holocaust or similar event could happen again. Teaching this content is an important step, but not all states require that the Holocaust be covered in the middle or high school social studies curriculum. If not schools, then who?
Teaching the Holocaust
I had the opportunity to speak with Kim Blevins-Relleva, a Program Coordinator for Education Initiatives within the William Levine Family Institute for Holocaust Education at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Kim is a former classroom teacher, and she brings her years of experience to her current position at the museum, where she is responsible for training middle and high school teachers to teach about the Holocaust.
Kim and I spoke about reasons to teach U.S. students about the Holocaust, the biggest challenges for educators in doing so, how to find and use the best resources and tools, and how teaching the Holocaust brings relevance to today’s students.
Geraldine Stevens: What do you think are the most important reasons to teach the Holocaust?
Kim Blevins-Relleva: We encourage educators to think about why they want to teach this history even before they think about what or how to teach it. There are many reasons why people might want to study this history. Those answers vary from person to person. I have my own personal reasons. I found it compelling for the human interest, the humanity that is present in this study that connects us to one another and connects us to the past in such a strong way. But again, we really encourage educators to think about this for themselves.