A friend of mine recently shared this video with me and I think it is important to share it further. The creator of this video is Rhonda Fink-Whitman, the writer of the book 94 Maidens, which is a novel inspired by true events that occurred in 1942 in Nazi Germany. Fink-Whitman interviewed Pennsylvania public school graduates enrolled at four different PA universities to see what they knew about the Holocaust, WWII, and Genocide in general. Pennsylvania does not have mandatory Holocaust education in public schools. In fact, only 5 states do have mandates for this education – CA, FL, IL, NJ, and NY. The basic facts that these college students did not know shocked me. The questions asked of them ranged from the simple to the more complex, but to be honest, they all were things a college student should know. Here are some of the questions that were posed:
What was the Holocaust?
Where did the Holocaust happen?
Which country did the Holocaust start in? (no, Europe is not a country…)
Which country was Adolf Hitler the leader of? (no, Amsterdam is not a country…)
About how many years ago did the Holocaust take place?
What were the prison camps commonly known as?
Can you name one of these camps?
What was Auschwitz?
What was the Night of Broken Glass?
What were the Nuremberg Laws?
What were the Nuremberg Trials?
What was the significance of a ship called the St. Louis?
Which U.S. President was responsible for sending a boat load of Jews back to a certain death in Europe?
What was the “Final Solution”?
How many Jews were murdered?
What other groups were targeted besides Jewish people?
What type of experiments were done on prisoners of Auschwitz?
What did they do to twins in Auschwitz?
Name a form of resistance during the Holocaust.
Why did the Americans storm the beaches of Normandy?
Where is Normandy? (no, Normandy is not a country…)
Which event brought the United States into World War II?
What was the ghetto uprising and where did it take place?
What did they tattoo on prisoners arms in Auschwitz and other camps?
What U.S. general ordered his troops to take pictures of what they found at the camps when they got there so that no one would ever deny or forget what they did there?
Who was Josef Mengele?
Who was the President of the United States during WWII / the Holocaust?
Who was Winston Churchill?
Who were known as the Allies?
Who was Anne Frank?
What did the Nazis make the Jews wear to identify them as Jews?
What is the difference between a perpetrator, a victim, and a bystander?
What is genocide?
Is genocide taking place today anywhere?
At about 9:45 in the video, Fink-Whitman turned her questions to students from New Jersey and New York. You can imagine they knew a lot more of the answers than the other students. I grew up knowing about the Holocaust. I attended after school Hebrew school and two of my teachers were Holocaust survivors. Obviously I am from New Jersey and I did take a class on the Holocaust in high school. I also took a class on the Holocaust in college. I have been to the Holocaust museums in New York, Washington, D.C., California, and Israel. At each one, I learned a little more. There are some questions above (specifically the one about the St. Louis) that I remember learning at a museum, not in high school. But don’t you think all high school graduates should at the very least know what the Holocaust was and where it took place? (And aside from that, shouldn’t they know what is a country and what isn’t?)
Do you know the answers to these questions? Do you remember learning about the Holocaust in school or elsewhere? Do you think Holocaust education should be mandatory in public high schools? How did this video make you feel?