Response to the readings:”Holocaust Fatigue”: Teaching It Today by Simone Schweber and The Holocaust Just Got More Schocking by Eric Lichtblau

Prompts:

1. When and why did the Holocaust start to get more curricular coverage?

The Holocaust began to get more coverage both in the schools and in various forms of media in the late 1980s (Schweber). According to Schweber, “Whether Holocaust education has spread in the last few decades as the result of Jewish elites pushing that agenda, popular cultural representations percolating into societal consciousness, a grassroots campaign among mostly non-Jewish American Educators to teach the subject, or some constellation thereof, the results are unequivocal.”

2. How can students understand genocidal violence without taking the subject seriously?  

One way is through the trivialization of the subject. This is the result of various medias using the Holocaust subject matter for humor or, as in the example used in Schweber’s article, made into a Jeopardy game. Students repeatedly learn about the when, how, what, where, but not too much on the why. Teaching the Holocaust without teaching students why Jews were prosecuted, why and how perpetrators became involved in the violence, and comparing and contrasting the Holocaust with other genocides such as Rwanda, Bosnia, Armenia, and recently Darfur in Sudan prevents students from taking the subject seriously.

Another way that students can understand genocidal violence without taking the Holocaust seriously is due to the current situation pertaining to Israel. Whereas other victims of genocide are still feeling the effects of their experiences, Israel is a powerful and well to do nation state. The current power of Israel, supported by the U.S., may juxtapose the image of Jews as victims in a student’s mind. Especially if that student has not learned about the history of antisemitism or how current antisemitism is still with us today.

Lastly, the student may able to understand genocidal violence without taking the Holocaust seriously due to over generalization. This over generalization can happen due to teachers down playing the differences between Jews and non-Jews in order to build emphatic bridges. However, the cost is that students fail to grasp why Jews were the victims in the first place.

3. How can students take the subject seriously without understanding genocidal violence? 

One way is through the sacralization of the Holocaust. What that means is that the Holocaust becomes so sacred to talk about that it squelches any form of investigation or real learning about it. The students then understand the seriousness of the subject without really understanding why genocidal violence happens.

Another way that students can take the Holocaust seriously without understanding genocidal violence is from over specification where the Holocaust is taught in great detail without connecting it to the larger themes of genocidal violence, such as comparing and contrasting the Holocaust with Darfur, Armenian, Bosnian, and other genocides.

 

The key to having students understand genocidal violence and take the subject seriously, according to the author, is to balance between over generalizing and over specifying the Holocaust.

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