Karen Pollock – Why learn about genocide?

Chief Executive of the Holocaust Education Trust Karen Pollock tells us why she thinks it is important to learn about the Holocaust. 

Luke, Hannah and Charlotte, from Turing House School and Claverham Community College respectively spoke to three prominent public figures about why it was important to learn about the Holocaust and other genocides. Here is what Karen Pollock CBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Eduction Trust wrote:

I believe that all young people from every background, should learn about the Holocaust. There are a number of reasons for this:

To honour the six million Jewish men, women and children who were mur- dered by the Nazis and their collaborators. Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel wrote that “to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.” We must learn about the Holocaust to learn about those who were murdered, know their names, and remember their stories. They were human beings like you and me, whose lives were cut short. They deserve to be remembered and in learning about them we can give the voiceless a voice.

We remember the Holocaust to honour those incredible men and women who survived – some of whom are still with us today. They survived unimaginable horrors and went on to rebuild their lives as best they can. Many settled here in the UK, having families, careers and some of them dedicated their later years to sharing their experiences with future generations in classrooms across the country, in the hope that the past would never be forgotten and so that we can learn lessons from that dark period of history.

We remember for the sake of history. The Holocaust was a defining episode in history. It fundamentally changed the face of Europe, wiping out families and whole communities, virtually eradicating Jewish culture in significant swathes of the continent. The impact of the Holocaust is still felt today, in the absences across Europe. Whilst the Allies defeated Nazism, the Holocaust impacted this country too – it is not something that happened to someone else, somewhere else – this is our story.

We can and must learn about the Holocaust to learn for the future. There have been genocides since the Holocaust, antisemitism is once again on the rise, hate has not gone away. George Santayana wrote in 1905 “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This phrase is displayed as you enter one of the blocks in Auschwitz -Birkenau that now forms part of the Memorial and Museum and is something that gives us pause for thought.

To your second question, asking what is the most important thing that young people can do to help ‘Never Again’ become a reality – well, you’re doing it! By learning about the Holocaust, educating others, becoming a witness to the history, by hearing from a Holocaust survivor, you become an Ambassador for a better future. When people know where hatred can lead, they also become advocates, passionate about speaking out against hate and prejudice wherever it is found. So thank you for everything you’re doing!

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