Guest Columnist

Learning Prejudice


At the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle there is a student leadership board for students from all over Washington who learn about the Holocaust and related issues, such as genocide, antisemitism and prejudice. I am proud to say that this is my second year on the board.

What I have learned there suggests our society is moving backward. 

One of the common themes in Holocaust education is preventing mass genocide from happening again. However, all around the world genocides have recently occurred or are occurring: Xinjiang, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Syria, Myanmar and in many other places. 

How many of those have you heard of? Maybe one or two?

We in America have tunnel vision, which filters out every problem that doesn’t affect us. 

A recent lesson presented to the student leadership board was based on antisemitism and anti-Judaism. You may wonder what the difference is between the two. Anti-Judaism is the opposition to Judaism as a religion and to those who practice it. Antisemitism is the prejudice against, or hatred of Jews. 

It’s also part of the false narrative that Judaism, like Islam, is a race rather than a religion. 

A common theme in all history education is that history repeats itself. That is exactly what happened in Jewish history. It all began in 587 BCE when Judaea fell to the Babylonians and the Jews became stateless. They lived in exile wandering from state to state but nobody wanted them. And whenever something bad would happen, the Jews would be blamed.

Who else would you blame besides people that had no home?

For example, Jesus was a Jew killed by Romans, giving birth to Christianity. In the sixth century, laws were enacted protecting Christians from Jewish contamination, excluding Jews from most occupations. At various times from the 1100s to the 1500s, Jews had to wear yellow ribbons to signify they were Jewish and had to live in separate areas that became known as ghettos.

Lies were also spread about blood libels, the false allegation that Jews used the blood of non-Jewish (Christian) children for ritual purposes. And that Jews caused the plague or Black Death. 

Sound familiar? 

When Hitler came to power in the 20th century, Jews wore yellow stars, were again forced to live in ghettos, and a mass genocide killed over six million of them and five million more innocents in what we now call the Holocaust. 

What about this proves that history doesn’t repeat? 

Let’s examine the social media influence that plagues society today. Misinformation, fearmongering, and preying on the uneducated and the inexperienced still rules the day. Who is one to believe? Cable news? Facebook? Twitter? What responsible news outlet would repeat a statement about COVID-19 being the “China virus”?

What responsible person would believe it?

It blows my mind that people still say the Holocaust wasn’t real. But I have met survivors, heard them tell their stories, and witnessed their passing and how it affects the community. And that is why it is so important to continue to listen for the lost voices of history. 

Recently, people have worn yellow Stars of David to express their opposition to coronavirus vaccines. Jim Walsh, one of our state representatives (R-Aberdeen), was seen wearing one, saying, “In the current context, we’re all Jews.” 

First, Judaism is a religion, not a race. The Jews of Nazi Germany were forced to wear yellow stars to show that they were beneath the “pure blooded Germans,” and they were slaughtered for it. 
Walsh also wrote, “It’s an echo from history.” So, does that mean everyone who thinks wearing a yellow star is acceptable believes they’re going to be victims of genocide?

A civilized people cannot allow history to be falsified for any reason. The history of the Holocaust is real, and it is an insult to the millions of lives lost and to every survivor, and to all of us who care about the Holocaust, about history, about each other.

But what can we do? There’s not much that a 16-year-old posts on her Instagram that adults are going to believe.

“Your facts are wrong,” I’m told.

“You don’t know what you’re saying.”

“You’re too young to understand.” 

As we grow up, we’re told to act like adults, but we’re treated like children. Listening to each other has become a lost art. Young people have something to say. We are aware. Let’s learn from each other. How can my generation be “the future” when nobody wants to listen now?

Grace Nesbit is a junior at Peninsula High School. She lives in Lakebay.