Reflecting On The Holocaust And The Advocacy We Owe To Its Survivors
Almost 80 years ago, Adolf Hitler began his Final Solution – the plan to rid the world of Jewish people. While Jews were being taken from their homes and killed in gas chambers, they did anything they could to preserve their memories and to ensure that the atrocities they were witness to would be remembered. Figures such as Elie Wiesel, Simon Dubnow, and Anne Frank gave us their letters, diaries, and other writings that help us to try to understand what these people witnessed and were subject to.
The term “Never Forget” is one that encompasses the Holocaust and the mantra for the activists who work to ensure that the carnage of the Holocaust does not happen again. Films, such as Shoah, highlight the testimonies by survivors, witnesses, and Nazis who committed these crimes, while Claude Lanzmann visited German Holocaust sites. Elie Wiesel spoke out against the atrocities that occurred in Cambodia and Sudan-Darfur and complacent governments that did nothing to protect the helpless because we had forgotten the lessons learned from the Holocaust.
On February 14, 2018, Nikolas Cruz used an AR-15 in a massacre that took the lives of 17 students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD). Within four days of the shooting, the term “Never Again” began to circulate in the movement of the survivors of the MSD shooting.
In the two months since the shooting, these students have rallied, marched, and written for major newspapers making their voices heard. These students, in the face of adversity, are advocating for change for not just themselves, but for generations of students to come.
These students are not just starry-eyed, idealistic teenagers with a dream to change the world, they are telling their stories to ensure that a school massacre Never Again occurs by fighting for gun control reform and calling out government politicians who are being swayed by to not make changes.
Faculty and students across the country walked out of schools and universities on March 14 to honor the lives of the 17 people killed at MSD, as well as get the attention of and pressure lawmakers into passing stricter gun control laws. A group of students from MSD organized the March for Our Lives, which then received a following of more than 800 demonstrations across all 50 states and six continents.
This is one generation fighting for the next to make a change. But why didn’t the previous generation fight for change after the Columbine Shooting? Did they try, but experienced a pushback from politicians that created an insurmountable feat? Why didn’t politicians feel it necessary to ban the sale of assault rifles and bump stocks, strengthen the background check system? Why did society allow for politicians to be complacent?
I serve as the Curriculum Manager Intern at UF Hillel, which has given me the opportunity to cultivate a book list and discussion questions for our Goodreads account. With this opportunity, I have the ability to challenge the existing mindsets and question the preconceived notions of our extended community.
As an Elementary Education major, I have learned about and have a responsibility to the children. I will teach them on becoming good citizens, social justice advocates, and their responsibilities as people. I never imagined that I would have to worry about risking my life to save my students, or that seats in my class would be forever empty because of a shooting.
Rather than arming me with a hand gun to protect my students, arm me with history books to teach the children about events like the Holocaust, the Rwandan Genocide, Columbine Shooting, the Shooting at Sandy Hook, and the Marjorie Stone Douglas Shooting. Arm me with a Social Justice curriculum. Arm me with what I need to teach a generation of students what “Never Forget” and “Never Again” mean.
With Yom HaShoa, Holocaust Remembrance Day, coming this week, I believe this is a time for rumination. How have we, not just Jews, but a generation, remembered the cruelties of the Holocaust? Are we still listening to the stories of the Holocaust survivors? Are we learning from history or are we allowing it to repeat itself? Are we upholding our obligations on behalf of humanity?
It is our generations’ responsibility to continue to advocate for what we believe in. It is our responsibility to continue to tell the stories of those who can no longer tell them. It is our responsibility to ensure that genocides never happen again and children can go to school and not fear for their lives.
It is our responsibility to ensure than we Never Forget the Holocaust and there is Never Again a school shooting.