SALT LAKE CITY — It’s been 75 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration and death camp where more than 1.1 million people perished.
Despite millions being killed during the Holocaust, a distressing number of Americans cannot correctly identify Auschwitz as a concentration and extermination camp, a state lawmaker told her Senate colleagues Monday.
Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, addressing the Senate Education Committee, said a recent poll found that 41% of respondents and 66% of millennials could not identify the camp in Poland, where as many 6,000 people were killed daily.
“Twenty-percent of the millennials said they had never heard of the Holocaust, and that was a poll of people 18 and over so you can only imagine the lack of knowledge of even younger students,” Arent said.
Arent seeks to increase Utah schoolchildren’s level of awareness through a resolution she is carrying during her final session in the Legislature.
The Senate Education Committee gave unanimous approval to HCR12. The bill passed unanimously in the House late last month.
The resolution highlights the importance of Holocaust and genocide education and encourages the Utah State Board of Education, districts and charter schools to emphasize their study within the context of geography, history and political systems.
Teaching Utah students about genocide and the Holocaust will help them “understand the root causes, consequences and ramifications of prejudice, racism, stereotyping and discriminatio and to confront the issues of moral dilemmas and conflicts of conscience posed by the Holocaust and other genocides,” the resolution states in part.
It also would “contextualize and illuminate patterns of human behavior by individuals and groups and their choices of roles, including perpetrator, collaborator, bystander, victim, resister and rescuer,” HCR12 states.
Some 6 million Jews and 5 million others were persecuted and murdered by the Nazi regime and its collaborators, the resolution states. “The term genocide was coined specifically to describe the unfathomable depth and breadth of atrocities perpetrated during the Holocaust,” it says.
The resolution encourages the State School Board to continue its practice of adopting social studies age-appropriate standards that include the study of the Holocaust and other genocides.
Diane Hartz Warsoff, whose mother Ruth Kapp Hartz was a hidden child of the Holocaust and spent her childhood in France, told the committee that her mother, now a retired educator, has spoken to more than 2,500 Utah students about her experience.
Warsoff, who is a business consultant, volunteers with Robert Austin, social studies specialist with the State Board of Education, to help identify free or low-cost educational materials to further students’ study about the Holocaust and genocide.
“As you know, there is rising hatred in general and anti-Semitism in particular, and it’s very important, as Rep. Arent said, to teach our children about the lessons about this particular genocide as well as other genocides and the importance of helping them understand the dangers of ‘othering’ people as well as being tolerant of those who are different from ourselves,” said Warsoff, a board member of United Jewish Federation of Utah.
HCR12 moves to the Senate for its consideration.