The Holocaust marks one of the most horrible events of the twentieth century. Eastern Europe became home to a large network of concentration camps, where social outcasts and political prisoners got held and slaughtered by the masses. People were no longer seen as people, but rather as animals. We discussed International Holocaust Remembrance Day with Dr. Brenda Schoolfield, one of the history professors on campus and the chairwoman of the History, Government and Social Science department. Above all, we use this memorial day to remind ourselves of what happened—and that we must never repeat it.
The Importance of Remembering
“It is important to remember how awful things can be, as well as how wonderful,” said Dr. Schoolfield. “We celebrate triumphs, but we also need to commemorate the horrible things, to remind us of what humanity is capable of doing. And to help us look for ways to keep it from happening again. To sweep it under the rug, to say ‘just get over it,’ is not healthy. That’s not healthy on a personal level and that’s not healthy on a national or international level. You can’t just say, ‘Let’s just all forget about it and move on.’ You need to learn from it.”
As a history teacher, she is aware of this more than most. Mandatory history classes are more than just a ploy to take up students’ time and give us stress-induced acne. It’s an important part of making us well-rounded individuals. To educate us on the past is to teach us about the future and to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes our ancestors did. Horrors like the Holocaust and victories like D-Day, which will reach its 75th anniversary this year, teach us about the depths of human depravity and the heights of our character. Love, hatred, greed, kindness—we have the capacity to do so many things. It is up to us to decide which side of history we want to be on.
The Effects on Today
Dr. Schoolfield continued, “We need to remember what happened because we have to understand that nobody is beyond that. There’s a tendency to think that we get ‘better’ as time moves on, but that isn’t something that’s proved by history. The atrocities can take different shapes, but they still happen. I think we need to remind ourselves that human life is valuable. Institutions like the Holocaust Museum that highlight the humanity and bravery of the individuals and the individual price of the Holocaust—those are powerful prompts to our memory to say, ‘Look, we don’t want this to happen again, so don’t forget that it happened before.’”
Call to Action
Though it is hard to believe that the world became reduced to such depths, we need to understand that it did happen and that it still does, all over the world. “Look at the Rohingya people in South Asia,” said Dr. Schoolfield, bringing up a population of Muslim-Hindus whose villages are subject to mass-killings, rapes, and destruction of their villages. “There’s a lot of talk about refugee crises and yet it’s quantified in numerical terms, not in human terms.”
Schoolfield then talked about the difference between large-scale problems and ones that we encounter on our very own home turf—and how we can have an effect on both. “There are also ways that we encounter that inhumanity, but on a micro-scale, within our own home. I’m not saying rudeness is the same as killing someone, but Christ reminds us, doesn’t He, that if you hate someone, you can murder them. Because you have cut that person off and refused to see the image of God in that person. We have to counter that culture of death and disrespect by acting for life and respecting people. For me, it’s hardest when I’m driving. One of the things that calms me while I’m driving is to sing hymns. It’s kind of hard to have road rage if you’re singing ‘Beneath the Cross of Jesus.’ If we say that we are the feet and hands of Jesus, then that should play out in how we treat other people.”
Even if your family wasn’t personally affected by the Holocaust, it still has the power to shape us today. “My family that fought in World War II fought in the Pacific,” Dr. Schoolfield remarked. “I don’t think I have any family that went through [the Holocaust]. Certainly not in my immediate family or my grandparents or anything. But those women, those children, those men, were all human beings. And I am too.”