International Holocaust Remembrance Day is Thursday, January 27th. This is a day when we remember the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, their loved ones, and the ways in which this incalculable tragedy has transformed our world. It is also a time for educators to ensure their readiness to integrate instruction on the Holocaust into their annual teaching plans. Research released by the Claims Conference reveals alarming levels of ignorance amongst millennials and generation Z regarding the Holocaust, as well as profoundly harmful notions of Jewish culpability fueled by antisemitic hatred. Teachers have an essential role to play in disrupting these twin evils of ignorance and hatred, and Facing History materials are here to help educators invite students into this learning in middle and high school classrooms.
In a recent interview, I spoke with Dr. Anna Ornstein—an Auschwitz survivor, acclaimed psychoanalyst, psychiatrist, and author of My Mother’s Eyes: Holocaust Memories of a Young Girl. The impact of the Holocaust on Dr. Ornstein was profound. She and her mother were the only members of her family who survived and immediately after the war, she reunited with her boyfriend Paul and they married. She then pursued medical school in Germany despite the deeply antisemitic climate and was able to persist with the loving support of her husband. Dr. Ornstein later immigrated to the United States where she continued her clinical training while raising her family. She now has three children and five grandchildren. Dr. Ornstein’s life and ideas are the focus of the forthcoming short film by Facing History If Not Me…
In a recent interview, I spoke with acclaimed writer, educator, rabbi, and scholar Ariel Burger about the task of the educator on Yom HaShoah—Holocaust Remembrance Day—and every day. A devoted protégé and friend of Elie Wiesel, Burger is the author of Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom.
KS: In your bio, you note that a major personal transformation that you underwent in your young adulthood has had a defining impact on your work and that this moment was meeting Professor Elie Wiesel. What did that meeting and relationship teach you?
AB: I think there are things we all go through at certain ages and for many of us, during our teenage years, we start asking very important and fundamental questions about who we are, what’s our role in the world, how can we make a difference, and also why does the world not make any sense, morally, ethically. Our deepest intuitions about the world don’t match up with the reality of how people treat one another.
Commemorated with rituals and traditions, Yom HaShoah—or Holocaust Remembrance Day—helps us pause to focus on the lessons of history—painful, brutal history. In most communities, observations will feature presentations from Holocaust survivors or their children, remembrances in the flesh and—through their stories—living reminders of the exclamation, “Never again!”