The Holocaust was not an accident. It happened because individuals, groups, and other organizations came together to legalize mass murder, discrimination, and prejudice. The holocaust was a time of tragedy and injustice. These facts and more are what students who take the Holocaust elective begin to learn.
“It’s interesting for me because I’ve always been curious about the Holocaust and I’ve always been interested in learning more about it,” freshman Sander Miller said.
A vast number of lives were lost during this time in history. It is also a lesson of human tolerance.
“Holocaust education is incredibly important,” US history teacher Stephen Hanson said. “In fact, it’s so important, that since 1976, the state of NJ has mandated public schools to provide this education to grades K-12.”
Mr. Hanson teaches the Holocaust elective at DMAE and understands the broad scope of lessons the Holocaust provides to teenagers. Other than raising awareness of the actual WWII Holocaust, the elective promotes tolerance and anti-bullying. Bullying and intolerance were a driving force behind what happened and who was targeted.
“The Holocaust was an extreme form of bullying,” Mr. Hanson said. “This bullying was promoted by German leaders, and like the flu, this harassment spread from person to person. Pretty soon, almost the entire country picked up on the Nazi way of life.”
According to Mr. Hanson, an estimated 11 million innocent lives were lost in the Holocaust. Out of all the varied ethnic groups and races targeted in this event, the Jewish people got the worst of it; a total of 6 million Jews were slain, but other ethnic groups including Gypsies and Africans were also targeted..
“With the knowledge of this mass-murder, I want students to learn to accept tolerance, avoid bullying, and love diversity,” Mr. Hanson said.
Students analyze a variety of videos pertaining to the Holocaust, from The Diary Of Anne Frank to Shindler’s List. Videos show all sorts of different aspects of the Holocaust, from the perspective of the victims, to those unaffected, to those who caused it. After watching a video, students answer critical thinking questions. At the end of the semester, students write a response on how the education they received in the elective impacted their lives.
“In order to really answer this question, you really have to sit down and think about it,” freshmen Giannina Garcia said. “It isn’t something that takes just one thought, and boom, you’re done.”
The Holocaust elective intrigued those who took the class. They expressed enthusiasm about what they learned and were eager to discuss their thoughts.
“I think it’s great that we got to learn so much about the Holocaust because it’s a really big topic in history,” freshmen Julia Kotaev said.
To Mr. Hanson, the Holocaust, and classes similar to it, ensure a bright future for this world.
“Never again should this happen. It was a crime against mankind and a total travesty,” Mr. Hanson said. “I want students to be able to speak out against such behavior, and promote love and peace.”