When I tell people that I am a Holocaust, genocide and human rights studies minor, I am usually met with the following responses:
“They have that?”
“But you’re so perky!”
“Isn’t that, like, depressing?”
I get it. I do. It’s not like I am minoring in marketing. I’m minoring in a study that focuses on the genocides of different peoples and, yes, it can definitely be upsetting at times. Because of that, and because it is such an unheard of minor, I guess those are the responses I should expect.
I want to get into answering that question of why. Here are some headlines from the week of Hanukkah this year:
- Eastern Iowa Synagogue Vandalized on First Day of Hanukkah
- Idaho Anne Frank Memorial Defaced With Nazi Propaganda
- Menorah at Dartmouth College Vandalized
- Long Island Jewish school’s website hacked with Nazi images, slurs
Should I continue?
- Kentucky authorities investigating attack at a menorah-lighting
- Alameda City Hall menorah found in pieces on first day of Hanukkah
- Racist, anti-Semitic graffiti at Amherst Regional High School investigated
- 4 men threaten to blow up Belgian train unless ‘cancer Jews’ get off
If that doesn’t explain why, let me break it down a little more.
Antisemitism did not start with the Holocaust and it did not end with the Holocaust. As you can see by those headlines, this behavior isn’t just happening in one place, every now and then. It is happening all over the country and all over the world on a day-to-day basis.
Growing up, I was always interested in history. Specifically the World War II era and, of course, the Holocaust is something that falls into that time period. Looking back, I never really learned much about it other than the fact that there were concentration camps and a lot of Jewish people were killed for, well, being Jewish.
The great thing about college is that there is literally a class for everything. When I was making my schedule for freshman year and saw that there was a Holocaust course, I didn’t hesitate. I had to take it. It ended up being the most influential class I’ve ever taken at college thus far. It opened my eyes to how the Holocaust even happened in terms of the political, economic and social problems that were going on at the time in Germany and the world. It was fascinating and I knew I had to learn more.
Fast forward a year and I find myself at home the summer before sophomore year, planning my fall semester schedule, only this time at a new school. After scrolling endlessly through Instagram, as one does, I found out they had a minor centered around Holocaust studies. At first I was so shocked. What? That’s a minor? No way.
Then it got me thinking…why should I be so shocked? Why isn’t that a universal program? And, not for nothing, why should we have to wait until college, where the range of material opens up beyond basic science and American history? High schools should be teaching it, not offering it.
In my opinion, everybody should take a Holocaust course at some point in their college career, or even after. Just like how we are required to take a certain amount of social science or philosophy classes as a general course requirement, we should have to take a Holocaust class.
Whether you are Jewish or not, you should take one. It is so important that people become educated and learn more about what happened in the past and reasons as to why we are seeing what we are seeing in today’s world. Like I said before, unfortunately antisemitism isn’t something that began and ended with the Nazi regime. It is very prevalent and on the rise even today, and it goes widely unnoticed and unrecognized. Would you have known about the events above if I hadn’t shared them? Probably not. And, honestly, I wasn’t made aware of most of them until days after the fact.
I hope that one day, minoring in Holocaust studies will be synonymous with a minor in marketing. It won’t be questioned or garner a hesitant response. I hope that one day when I meet someone and tell them my minor, their response will be, “Me too!”
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