Concerning the Holocaust, the phrase “never forget, never again” is frequently thrown around. The idea is that knowledge of the past can help us prevent repeating the same mistakes. However, I wonder if we are remembering the wrong part of that history. Particularly, the historical circumstances that led us to the Holocaust. I wonder this now because we are seeing a resurgence in Nazi rhetoric, and it seems that few people recognize the danger.
Also, one of the weaknesses in the way history is taught is that it focuses on fulcrum points. A leader came to power. An important event took place. Economic conditions existed. What is not recorded in history books is the behavior of individuals. The thoughts and opinions of regular people and their resulting behavior. This seems relevant now because Trump isn’t causing all of this. A huge swath of the American people are causing or allowing it. To an unknown extent, Nazism wasn’t caused by Hitler. It was an attitude or mood that Hitler rode to power and then harnessed. Widespread racism was an enabling factor of Hitler and his programs, just as it is today with Trump and his.
One thing that history does not teach us is how to avoid or counteract racism. What can be done about it? Racism is bad, m’kay? Unfortunately, though we’ve been teaching that message for generations, it hasn’t gotten through. In WWII, it took half the world’s military power to stop it, at great cost.