The Importance of The Never Again Education Act

Ginger Uhlfelder, Staff Writer

I don’t remember how or when it happened, but one day the word “Holocaust” went from meaning nothing to meaning everything. It is a word I now associate with unbearable pain, inconceivable hatred, devastating loss, and overwhelming ignorance. The same ignorance that has fueled the recent rise in antisemitism. As a Jewish person, hearing things like “Hitler should’ve finished the job” or “6 million wasn’t enough,” is beyond terrifying and incredibly frustrating, because I know that we have enabled the proliferation of this ignorance by keeping Holocaust education out of our school curriculums. That is where the Never Again Education Act comes in.

The Never Again Education Act was passed in 2020 and expands the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s educational programming. It provides $10 million in federal funding to maintain and create free educational resources, including lesson plans, educator training, and class activities. It does not mandate the use of these resources, but it makes the Holocaust a more accessible topic and removes any excuse not to teach it based on a lack of resources or training. Although I would’ve preferred a mandatory curriculum, this act is a stepping stone towards that goal and should be supported. 

The reestablishment of Holocaust education in our schools is an urgent matter because through the exclusion of this topic students have lost knowledge of this period of history. A 2020 survey of Millennials and Gen Z  by the Claims Conference showed that 48% could not name a single concentration camp. 63% did not know that 6 million Jewish lives had been lost, and 11% believed that Jewish people were themselves responsible for the Holocaust. These statistics are chilling because it means that the Holocaust is being forgotten, intentionally or not. The educational resources provided by the museum will help combat this ignorance. 

Perhaps more disturbing is what happens when educators attempt to teach the Holocaust without guidelines or proper training. One story that stuck out, in particular, was from The Washington Post, which detailed a third-grade class in Washington DC who were made to reenact moments from the Holocaust, including role-playing as victims and Nazis, pretending to dig mass graves for their classmates and acting as though they were shooting one another. The lack of guidelines and instructions from the school regarding how to teach the Holocaust is what allowed this to happen. The Never Again Education Act provides educator training, lesson plans, and classroom activities so that no student has to suffer like that again.

The Holocaust is an uncomfortable, scary, and confusing topic. It forces us to look at the worst in ourselves and our history. It exposes us to unimaginable violence, terror, and hatred, and so it is understandable why people would want to cover it up. It is easier to ignore the past than to confront it. But the past is our greatest resource for building a better future. Students who receive Holocaust education are 12% more likely to challenge intolerant behavior and 20% more likely to stand up to negative stereotyping, according to a 2020 survey of college students by Echoes and Reflections. They are in general more empathetic and have a greater understanding of others. That is why we need resources to learn about the Holocaust. Because at a time when hatred and bigotry run rampant, encouraging empathy and kindness should be our main priority. 

The Holocaust is a deeply personal matter for me and my family, however, I feel that the implications of Holocaust education extend beyond the topic itself and that genocide education is relevant for every student. Students should not only learn about the Holocaust but also about the war crimes and atrocities against the Bosnian populations during the Cold War, the genocides in Rwanda in the 1990s and Darfur in the early 2000s, and the recent genocide and detention of Uyghur Muslims in China. The Holocaust was far from the first genocide, nor was it the last, and by expanding Holocaust education programs we can open the doors for general genocide education.