From Darkness Into Light


Good Samaritan

Today I share with you a brief overview of the state of affairs concerning Holocaust education in America. I share this rather troubling information for the purpose of bringing home a point: that the Christian community ought to consider this pessimistic report as a call to assembly and action, deciding to take the leadership role in the reversal of this gloomy scenario. Fact of the matter is, this “gloomy scenario” may constitute the greatest opportunity for the church to shed light into the world since the end of WWII. Consider what follows in the spirit of these two questions:

  1. What does it mean to be a “Good Samaritan?”
  2. To “love your neighbor as yourself?”

“As the Holocaust enters the American classroom, it is being Americanized, seen through the prism of American categories and asked to play an important role in the needs of twenty-first century society. It is used as a means to teach issues of racism, pluralism, tolerance, and democracy. Some properly complain that this American representation of the Holocaust fails to deal with some basic aspects of the Holocaust. Since anti-Semitism is not a major issue in contemporary American life, the role of anti-Semitism is often de-emphasized in American classrooms. Since teachers are ncoolbluesalt&lightot well trained in Jewish history, Jewish life before the Shoah is virtually omitted. And there is a serious and perhaps even widening gap between the findings of contemporary scholarship and what takes place in the classroom.”

These are the words of Michael Berenbaum, professor, writer, lecturer, and Director of the Research Institute of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. [1]

According to the “Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research,” an intergovernmental body whose purpose is to place political and social leaders’ support behind the need for Holocaust education, remembrance, and research both nationally and internationally:

“Given the enormous demographic variations in the United States, it is impossible to identify every course in which the Holocaust is taught. However, according to “The National Study of Secondary Teaching Practices in Holocaust Education” recently conducted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, a significant portion of teaching about the Holocaust is done in English or language-arts classes, wherein it is more often approached in a thematic manner (e.g., intolerance) than in an historical (or chronological) manner.” [2]


From the Holocaust Memorial in Miami, Florida

And so it is that it seems a “perfect storm” of significant proportion concerning the memory of the Holocaust looms on the global horizon:

  1. The most eloquent and precious voice of the memory of the Shoah – its survivors – is fading from view, as even the youngest who experienced the Shoah last century is beyond the age of 70 today.
  2. … just as the perfidious Holocaust Denial movement strengthens its influence on the Left-liberal mindset of Western society’s college campuses.
  3. Outside our borders, Holocaust denial is an established cornerstone of state-sponsored school curriculum in parts of the Arab world and is a mainstay in state-sponsored Arab mass media.
According to the UJA of Greater New York: “There are more than 500,000 Holocaust survivors worldwide, including over 200,000 in Israel. The average age of a survivor is 79, with nearly a quarter who are 85 or older. As time passes, the consequences of advanced aging are compounded by the physical and emotional horrors they endured during the war… In Israel, the situation is most dire for the 160,000 Holocaust survivors who survived Nazi terror by fleeing to the Soviet Union, many of whom are elderly Russian-speaking immigrants who came to Israel in the 1990s and, for a long time, were not recognized as survivors and did not receive benefits.”
This post ends focused upon the same two questions it began with, plus one:
    1. What does it mean to be a “Good Samaritan?”
    2. To “love your neighbor as yourself?”

What does it mean to be “salt and light” …

… to us, as Christians, when we can plainly see the memory of the Holocaust fading?

[1] Michael Berenbaum, “Consciousness of the Holocaust: Promises and Perils,” Dimensions: A Journal Of Holocaust Studies, 15, no. 1.

[2] Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research, Holocaust Education Report, “Country Report on Holocaust Education in Task Force Member Countries, United States,” n.p. [cited 16 January 2012]. Online:


5 comments on “From Darkness Into Light

  1. You mention the “Americanized” version of Holocaust teaching and that brings to mind an interchange I had a few years ago while visiting Alburqurque, NM.

    I entered an Anne Frank exhibit and the elderly greeter began his orientation by stating that the Nazis targeted all sorts of groups for murder; the sick, weak, gypsies, handicapped, homosexuals, Jehovaha’s Wittnesses.

    He went on to tell a young girl next to me that if he had been been there, the Nazis would have killed him too due to his advanced age. I was surprised, and said so, that he hadn’t ever mentioned Jews, who were the people group that the “final solution” was sought.


  2. Dan Hennessy says:

    Your experience provides a great example of exactly what Berenbaum is saying. The “universal lessons of the Holocaust” as a motive for mention of the Holocaust in the classroom has, in a certain way, “superseded” the teaching of the Holocaust AS A MATTER OF HISTORY. In a sense, the world has developed an educational “replacement rationale” to coincide with its theological counterpart, Replacement Theology. Interesting development, isn’t it? One might go ahead and presume that “latent anti-Semitism” or “institutionalized anti-Semitism” was at work here. A frightening notion, but all too reasonable to consider. And yet more reason for the church to stand up and take the leadership position in teaching the Shoah to its youth.


    • Dan, it’s just mind boggling sometimes!

      I actually kept challenging him that day in front of the girl, and said that Hitler’s stated goal was to kill all Jews, and that was
      what drove him although others also got caught in the murder machine, he had’nt created death camps for homosexuals, elderly, or gypsies, but Jews! I said I knew of no effort to gather all elderly people (am I wrong about this?) so he most likely wouldn’t have been a victom, but there was no question about a Jew. I wanted that girl to hear our interchange so she didn’t get the wrong idea.
      After a few attempts of trying to deny what i said he did finally agree that I was right, Hitler’s effort, stated goal, and “passion” was for Jews.
      Of course I didn’t know this was a deliberate effort on anyone’s part, I was just thinking he was a antisemite (as he was old enought to know better) and wanted to truth to be said in front of impressionable ears.

      Thanks for all of your efforts Dan, my heart beats as yours does. This MUST end, and Christians have no more excuses!



      • Dan Hennessy says:

        It is mind-boggling, or worse, a spiritual malady that seems to afflict so many non-Jews. I love that you continued with what you had to say in front of the young girl! THAT was, perhaps, God’s reason for orchestrating the conversation. And, Lord willing, she will remember it all of her life and your thoughts and words will speak through her at that time!

        The elderly were usually gassed upon arrival at the camps. But they weren’t “targeted” as a group. They were useless – like children and the disabled, etc. – to the Nazis as slave labor.

        I use this thought from Elie Wiesel often with people who argue that “many” groups have had their own “holocaust.” He said this in his speech at the dedication of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C., following President Ronald Reagan’s heartfelt introduction: “I have learned that the Holocaust was a unique and uniquely Jewish event, albeit with universal implications. NOT ALL VICTIMS WERE JEWS, BUT ALL JEWS WERE VICTIMS.”

        I believe you influenced that young girl greatly.

        I am speaking on Yom HaShoah to an audience of mostly young people at a local college campus… pray that God will give me the “chutzpah” to tell it like it is, for that is exactly what I plan to do. 🙂


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