Never Forget: Students must learn darker chapters of history
Throughout the world this week, a grim 75th anniversary was being observed. It was on Jan. 27, 1945, that troops from the Soviet Union entered the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland, as they were forcing the German army back to its homeland.
Let us hope that in every high school in West Virginia and Ohio, at least part of a lesson this week deals with the anniversary.
Just a few weeks ago, West Virginians were reminded of the importance of educating young people on the Holocaust.
You may remember that a group of state Corrections and Rehabilitation trainees was photographed posing as if they were giving the Nazi salute. After the picture was publicized, every member of the class was fired. So were some other corrections employees.
Swift, severe action had to be taken, of course. But a big part of the problem was too many young people — everywhere, not just in West Virginia — do not understand the horror that was Nazi Germany, and what created it.
Betsy Jividen, of Wheeling, is corrections and rehabilitation commissioner. She said this week that simply firing those involved in the Nazi salute episode was not the end of her agency’s response.
For one thing, a demerit system for trainees has been reinstituted. But perhaps more important, Jividen wants to educate those in her agency regarding the Holocaust. “We’re taking this as a teaching moment,” Jividen said. “We need to overcome hate. We don’t tolerate hate, but we need to teach.”
Precisely. And, as we all understand, ignorance breeds hate.
“Shame on us, all of us, if the Holocaust isn’t remembered like it should be,” Jividen told state legislators.
Shame on us if we allow our children to leave high school without having an understanding of many brutal chapters in our own history, including anti-Semitism, slavery, Jim Crow, the treatment of Native Americans, and the placement of Americans of Japanese ancestry in OUR “internment” camps.
Merely pronouncing that such information needs to be part of high school curriculums is not enough. We encourage boards of education throughout our area to ask how bigotry is addressed in the schools they oversee. If they are not satisfied, changes should be made.
This is a situation in which the old injunction about being doomed to repeat history if we forget it ought to be taken quite literally.