31 states don’t require schools to teach about the Holocaust. Some laws are changing that – CNN

Posted By on June 1, 2021

"The Holocaust was a unique event in human history, encompassing evils so great it is nearly indescribable," said Amy Lutz, a spokesperson for the St. Louis Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum. "Contemporary comparisons to the Holocaust as a whole are inappropriate and should have no place in our public discourse."Anti-vaccination and anti-lockdown protesters, in arguing about infringements on civil liberties, have made similar comments during the pandemic. And with a recent uptick in anti-Semitic incidents in the US amid tensions over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Jewish advocacy groups and Holocaust museums are speaking out against the dangers of such analogies.

Some officials are calling for more education about the Holocaust to counter misinformation and promote understanding.

But 31 states do not. Holocaust awareness advocates would like to change that.

Holocaust analogies have become so common there's a word for them

Comparisons to the Holocaust, the systemic extermination of millions of Jews by Nazi Germany during World War II, have long been frowned upon. Some historians and Jewish advocacy groups argue that the sheer scale and magnitude of the Holocaust cannot be likened to anything today.

Holocaust analogies demonize, demean and intimidate their targets, said Edna Friedberg, a historian at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. While it's not a new trend, it's escalating and turning the Holocaust into "the epithet to end all epithets," she said.

"American politicians from across the ideological spectrum, influential media figures, and ordinary people on social media casually use Holocaust terminology to bash anyone or any policy with which they disagree. The takedown is so common that it's even earned its own term, reductio ad Hitlerum."

Reductio ad Hitlerum, a variation on a phrase in Latin, means invalidating someone else's position and dismissing it as similar to views held by Adolf Hitler or the Nazi Party. In short, playing the Nazi card.

"At a time when our country needs dialogue more than ever, it is especially dangerous to exploit the memory of the Holocaust as a rhetorical cudgel," Friedberg wrote. "We owe the survivors more than that. And we owe ourselves more than that."

More than half of American adults don't know how many people died in the Holocaust

Recent studies have highlighted the need for more education in the US about the Holocaust.

"This raises an important question: Are those who underestimate the death toll simply uninformed, or are they Holocaust deniers -- people with anti-Semitic views who claim that the Holocaust was invented or exaggerated by Jews as part of a plot to advance Jewish interests?" the Pew survey asked.

At least 63% of those surveyed didn't know that 6 million Jews were killed, and 36% thought the death toll was under 2 million, the study found.

In one of the survey's more disturbing findings, 11% of millennial and Gen Z respondents said they believe Jews caused the Holocaust.

"We need to understand why we aren't doing better in educating a younger generation about the Holocaust and the lessons of the past," Taylor added. "This needs to serve as a wake-up call to us all, and as a road map of where government officials need to act."

Some states are requiring schools to teach about the Holocaust

To ensure students learn about the Holocaust, some states are taking action.

In the Claims Conference study, Wisconsin had the highest score in Holocaust awareness among millennials and Generation Z while Arkansas had the lowest.

Arkansas just passed a similar measure that goes into effect in the 2022-2023 school year.

Like Wisconsin, the law in Arkansas calls for Holocaust lessons between fifth and 12 grades. Experts believe learning about genocide at a young age will lead to greater understanding and tolerance later on.

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31 states don't require schools to teach about the Holocaust. Some laws are changing that - CNN

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