By Natalie DeFord, Guest Columnist

The Holocaust is important and should be remembered and studied by everyone, including children. The deaths of 11 million people should not be ignored or forgotten.

The 8th Powell-Heller Holocaust Education Conference is March 4-6 at Pacific Lutheran University, and people of all ages should attend.

With the recent 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the Holocaust is a big topic right now. I’m glad it’s currently getting a lot of attention, because it’s something we should be talking about.

Children are the focus of this year’s conference, entitled “Children’s Voices: The Holocaust and Beyond.”

A 2014 UN report stated that half of the world’s 51 million refugees are children. After reading this report, the conference’s faculty planning group quickly decided children should be invited and stories of other children should be heard.

About 200 local students, grades 8-12, will attend. They will study the effects of dehumanization of children: both during the Holocaust and today.

Some people argue that the Holocaust is too scary and violent and we shouldn’t tell our kids about it. But our world today is full of violence on TV and in video games. It’s unavoidable. With children already so exposed to such horrors, why not talk about the Holocaust with them? The Holocaust should be taught to children.

Yes, learning about such horrific and sad events can be quite a downer. For a child this could even be emotionally scarring or traumatizing. Some, including Lord Baker, Baron of Dorking, want to completely ban all Holocaust studies to focus only on local histories. But, this topic is still important and should not be ignored for such reasons.

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s (USHMM) website, studying the Holocaust helps students to, “understand the roots and ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping in any society.”

The USHMM site also provides an answer to the question of why students should study the Holocaust:
“The Holocaust provides one of the most effective subjects for examining basic moral issues. A structured inquiry into this history yields critical lessons for an investigation into human behavior. It also addresses one of the central mandates of education in the United States, which is to examine what it means to be a responsible citizen.”

To avoid scaring our kids, while still teaching them to be good people and learn from the mistakes of our past, we can teach them about awful things in a nice way.

The student guests will be hosted by 32 PLU students and, together, will read the works of children who lived during the Holocaust. Mostly, these stories are told through the writings of children.

PLU student host Lexi Jason, sophomore, said she thinks such horrific stories will be easier for the kids to read since they were written from the perspective of other children.

Jason said she thinks the Holocaust is not only an important and recent part of our history, but also something to learn from.

“I think that learning about the Holocaust can help people see the negative and tragic consequences of hatred and through this learn to accept their differences,” Jason said.

Jason also said the Holocaust should definitely be taught to children, but that they don’t need all of the terrifying details to get the idea.

“I feel like a lot of people think the Holocaust should be taught to their children in junior high or later because of the subject matter,” Jason said. “I would tell them that it’s okay to keep the details from their younger children.”
Jason argued that parenting is the key here.

“Of course, if the child is playing video games where they’re killing people, then they can probably hear about the Holocaust in its fullness,” Jason said. “The parent has an opportunity to discuss the value of human life and how it differs in a video game context versus real life.”

Everyone should attend the Powell-Heller Holocaust Education Conference. There’s no excuse not to go.

We can’t let the Holocaust be forgotten. We need to continue teaching so the history and healing can continue.

 

A full schedule of the conference can be found at www.powellhellerconference.com

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