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The Importance Of Reading About The Holocaust

Updated on May 16, 2020

About The Holocaust

Arguably one of history's greatest tragedies, the Holocaust was the systematic persecution and killing of the Jewish people. The Nazi Party of Germany, led by Adolf Hitler, believed the Jews to be inferior. Other groups, such as homosexuals and disabled people were also persecuted. The Holocaust occurred between 1933 and 1945.

Many barbaric tactics and methods of persecution were used by the Nazis. Concentration camps housed thousands of people in deplorable conditions; starvation, diseases, and cruel forms of human experimentation were rampant.

Although no one knows how many people were murdered as a result of the Holocaust, it is believed that at least six million Jews were likely killed.

Why did it happen?

Although antisemitism existed for some time before Hitler's rise to power, discrimination against the Jews became more accepted and widespread as the Nazi Party became more powerful.

Adolf Hitler and the Nazis believed that the German race must become pure, and therefore must have a sort of "ethnic cleansing." They believed that the Jewish people were a nuisance. After years of blatent discrimination, the Holocaust was deemed by Nazis to be the "final solution" to the Jewish problem.

Apart from the logistics of how the Holocust happened, one of the greatest mysteries is how anyone could allow such a terrible thing to occur. How could one group be so ruthless and cruel to another? How could so many people close their eyes to basic morality and become agents of destruction? We may never fully understand the answers to these questions.

There is a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust in Berlin, Germany.
There is a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust in Berlin, Germany. | Source

Why Read About the Holocaust?

Reading about the Holocaust can be difficult. Although a wide variety of books have been written about the subject, often by the survivor's themselves, the accounts of what the victims have experienced is often emotionally hard to read.

So, why read about it at all? There are a few key reasons I recommend everyone read at at least one book about the Holocaust;

  • It allows the victim's voices to be heard. When we read firsthand accounts of what was experienced in the concentration camps, it gives the survivor's a voice and lets their stories be heard. These true accounts shed light on what actually occurred, rather than just relying on other sources to piece together this part of history.
  • Reading about it can help educate the public. Having a basic understanding of major events, such as the Holocaust, can help people understand how we got where we are today. Although not everyone is equally curious about history, the more people educate themselves about the Holocaust, the better we will be able to prevent devastating events like this from happening again
  • It can help prevent something similar from happening. How could such a mass genocide have occurred just a few generations ago? As Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel once said; "I told him that I did not believe that they could burn people in our age, that humanity would never tolerate it." Perhaps one of the greatest dangers of something similar to the Holocaust happening again is the idea that no one would ever allow such a thing to happen. Many books on the Holocaust emphasize how important it is to not be a bystander and remain neutral when we witness acts of injustice.
  • It can help you appreciate freedom. It can be all too easy to take things like freedom of religion and personal expression for granted. Reading about this time in history can provide a new perspective on how important our freedoms are. Even basic necessities like access to food and clean water can be appreciated more deeply when we read about the Holocaust.

Books can help educate people on how to prevent something similar from happening again
Books can help educate people on how to prevent something similar from happening again | Source

Book Recommendations

"Night" by Elie Wiesel

This unforgettable memoir is Wiesel's account of his time spent in two concentration camps - Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Elie Wiesel was only a young teen when he and his family were forced to leave home and live under the Nazi command.

Based off of Wiesel's memories, Night is both a heartbreaking and disturbing glance into what life inside the concentration camps was really like.

"The Girl In The Green Sweater: A Life In Holocaust's Shadow" by Krystyna Chiger and Daniel Paisner

This book is both inspirational and moving as well as disturbing and shocking. As a young girl, Chiger and other Polish Jews had to take refuge in the sewer systems to escape prosecution and death. The Girl In The Green Sweater bravely recounts the experience of being a young child trapped in the sewer with limited resources and supplies.

One of the best things about this book isn't just the honest reflection of the darkness and putrid experience of living in the sewer; it's the strong message of hope and courage that inspires the reader. A Polish sewer worker named Socha risked his life repeatedly to deliver food and supplies. Unlike many other books on the Holocaust, the message of this book is based on human compassion rather than the human capacity for cruelty. This book is truly an endearing and humbling read.

"After The Darkness: Reflections On The Holocaust" by Elie Wiesel and Benjamin Moser

Another book by well - known Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, After The Darkness takes a long and brutally honest look at the Holocaust from the victim's standpoint. Rather than just focusing on the events of the concentration camps, this book also examines life before and in the aftermath of this terrible time in history.

With real photographs from the U.S. Holocaust Museum, this book is sprinkled with various reflections from the survivor's themselves that give a unique perspective on the Holocaust. After The Darkness is both powerful and eye-opening.

Reading about the Holocaust can help you appreciate what you have.
Reading about the Holocaust can help you appreciate what you have. | Source

Should reading a book written by a Holocaust survivor be required by high schools?

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