On February 27, 1933, the German parliament building known as the Reichstag was set on fire. The government falsely portrayed it as part of a Communist effort to overthrow the state. The Nazi Party soon passed a decree, "For the Defense of the Nation and State," which removed many of German citizens' civil liberties and made it possible to imprison anyone who opposed Nazi rule. The Reichstag Fire is often seen as a cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy and the struggle to keep it intact.
Topics: Holocaust and Human Behaviour
Facing History is proud to feature young voices on Facing Today. Julia Clardy is a high school student who is part of the Rising Voices Fellowship, a program of the Jewish Women’s Archive (JWA). She wrote this piece as a Fellow, noting how one young Jewish civil rights activist helped her see that fighting for social justice goes beyond just fighting for those in your own inner circle. This piece was originally published on JWA’s blog, Jewish Women, Amplified.
Topics: Civil Rights Movement
Democracy today is undergoing some major challenges. In fact, in 2017 it faced its most serious crisis in decades with the 12th consecutive year of decline in global freedom, according to Freedom House.
And it’s reflected in our young people.
For 73 years, the Polish Government has bristled at the use of the term, “Polish death camps.” This reticence has prompted a new law, signed yesterday by President Andrzej Duda, that outlaws the phrase and penalizes anyone who suggests the country was complicit in Nazi crimes committed under occupation during World War II. While Duda defends the move as a way to safeguard the country against slander, using law and punishment to manipulate historical narratives raises troubling questions about how we remember the past.
Sonari Glinton is a journalist who read Night as a young boy and went on to study with Elie Wiesel when he was a student at Boston University. In a 2016 essay written right after Wiesel's death, Glinton describes how he was first drawn to Night simply because it looked like a quick read for a book report he’d been assigned to write. He was surprised to discover that he identified with its protagonist, even though, as a black boy growing up in Chicago, he and Eliezer would seem to have little in common. Still, Glinton saw himself in Eliezer’s love of books and theology and his status as part of an out-group in his society. Eliezer’s sense of fragility and vulnerability felt familiar.
Topics: Race and Membership
Fifty years ago this month, black sanitation workers in Memphis went on strike to fight for their right to safe working conditions and for pay that was equal to their white counterparts. This movement, which would last through April 1968, caught the attention of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who came to Memphis to march alongside these men. He eventually delivered his final speech the night before his assassination at the Lorraine Motel. The attention this strike garnered resulted in raises and the recognition of a worker’s union. As we consider the legacy of pivotal figures during Black History Month, the sanitation workers strike of 1968 shows us the power of civic engagement. So, how can we use our own individual agency to foster collective action and bring about positive change in today’s world?
Topics: Civil Rights Movement
Today’s News, Tomorrow’s History is an ongoing series with Listenwise. This series connects Facing History’s themes with today’s current events using public radio to guide and facilitate discussions around the social issues of our time. We will take a look at the protests over the Chinese National Anthem in Hong Kong.
Facebook’s recent admission that social media can have a negative influence on democracy is the most overt acknowledgment to date that the spread of fake news could have impacted the 2016 US presidential election. The recent surge of misinformation on social media for political gain is a call to action for educators to take a closer look at fake news as propaganda. But when does fake news cross that line?
Topics: Media Skills
January 27th, the anniversary of the Soviet liberation of Auschwitz, is the day marked by the United Nations to remember the Holocaust. Observed at the UN headquarters and in countries throughout the world, International Holocaust Remembrance Day is not the only memorial day. Some countries observe a date that relates directly to their own Holocaust history. Jews throughout the world mark the 27th of Nissan in the Hebrew calendar, a date just after Passover and in proximity to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 to remember these catastrophic events.
Recent headlines about Brexit have kicked up dust on old conflicts in Northern Ireland, yet tensions began rising months ago when four Catholic families were kicked out of their homes. They had lived peacefully in a social housing experiment in Belfast where both Catholics and Protestants were housed side by side. But when a shadowy loyalist (Protestant) gang directly threatened them, there was no guarantee of safety. Ultimately, the victims were moved out, resurfacing the the age-old issue: the expulsion, "ethnic cleansing," and intimidation that forces anyone deemed to represent "the other" out of certain areas, while keeping those areas as the exclusive possession of one "group."