Something felt different about this year's Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Unlike in previous years, the 2018 UN observation came after a year in which groups that deny or belittle the slaughter of six million Jews have enjoyed a level of support not seen since before the Holocaust.
We now live in a time, as German chancellor Angela Merkel put it, when “no Jewish institution can exist without police protection, whether it is a school, a kindergarten or a synagogue.”
We Kansas Citians know that better than most, as we remember the victims of a hate crime committed at our Jewish Community Center in 2014.
How did we get here? And how do we find our way out?
Answering these troubling questions means going well beyond “remembering the Holocaust.” We have to remember exactly how a people lost their mind, their moral compass, and their soul.
Thank you @HolocaustMuseum for a powerful & moving tour that honors the millions of innocent lives lost, and educates us on the tragedies and effects of the holocaust. #WeRemember #AskWhy pic.twitter.com/za8MN6pKRZ— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) January 25, 2018
The best way to “honor the millions of innocent lives lost” is to make sure it never happens again.
How does an entire culture lose its mind?
How do the politically powerful convince a society that their weaker neighbors are worthy of death?
Last fall I wrote about the spectacular moral failure of our local Catholic girls prep school in handling a “Nazis versus Jews” beer-pong game among some of its students.
The game has been played countless times in parents’ basements across America. For once it got captured on camera. School officials could have responded by making it a teachable moment.
Instead, they took the easy way out, slapping the girls on the wrist for their partying. Only when outraged alumnae threatened to stop the school’s multi-million-dollar fundraising campaign in its tracks did things change.
“I am incredulous that the administration is treating this less as an act of racism and more as an unruly night of underage drinking,” wrote one.
Since then, school officials made a presentation to the newspaper touting their efforts at diversity.
And, good news, the school now offers a one-semester course on genocide. Even better, it promises to get beyond the “what” to the “how”:
“The class will reflect on the actions of the perpetrators and the experience of the victims. We will examine how prejudice and hate grew in these societies to such levels [that] these actions became legal. Students will explore how this happens in the modern world, why it continues to happen, and the lasting effects it has on communities.” from the St. Teresa's Academy online course catalog
These changes are welcome, though I do notice that the school’s PR still pounds away at the message that technology is the key to the kingdom for the next generation of women.
Instead of GPS, I’d rather they learn how to build a good moral compass.
More: This insightful piece from a gaming journal argues that cartoonish portrayals of Nazis only help the cause of anti-Semitism. Claude Lanzmann’s epic 1985 documentary Shoah was remastered in 2013 onto six DVDs, available from your library.