Caption: Susan Newman teaches Holocaust Education at Carrboro High School
As the years pass since the Holocaust, there are fewer witnesses to tell the story. Younger generations are ill informed about the genocide against the Jewish people. A Pew study in 2020 showed that 48 percent of U.S. Millennial and Gen Z-ers could not name a single one of the more than 40,000 concentration camps or ghettos established during World War II. About 63% did not know that 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, believing the number to be much smaller. Younger people tend to underestimate the extent of the genocide, whether through ignorance or Holocaust denial, which is a form of antisemitism.
Gauging Interest at a Local High School
Before Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) in late April, we contacted Carrboro High School to see if they would be interested in hosting a personal story about the Holocaust. We were thrilled when they said yes.
Fighting Holocaust Denial and Apathy
NCCI member Susan Newman’s father, Arnold Kay z’l, was a Holocaust Survivor whose story was filmed by Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation. Mr Kay fought in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and survived four concentration camps, including Auschwitz. Susan and her husband Bruce speak about the Holocaust to honor the memory of Arnold Kay and to keep their pledge to “Never Forget.” They began presenting at a variety of venues, such as public schools, local Jewish Community Centers, and other community forums. Since they started speaking, hatred of Jews has unfortunately accelerated. The combination of Holocaust denial and Holocaust apathy is spreading throughout our college campuses. Also, most disturbing, is the messaging coming from our Jewish religious and cultural institutions regarding the Holocaust. There is talk about Holocaust fatigue, and recommendation that stories of survivors should be more “nuanced.” This attitude shift spurred the Newmans to advocate for Holocaust education with more strength and determination.
A Warm Welcome for the Newmans at Carrboro High School
Fortunately, Carrboro High School welcomed the Newmans into the school very graciously. They were given extra time to present, and their talk was broadcast into over 40 classrooms, going to the entire school of about 850 students. Attendance at the presentation was mandatory. Many students were very moved and impacted by the story and the films of Mr. Kay. One student commented “There are still individuals who don’t know what the Holocaust is, or the depth of the suffering and dehumanization that millions of individuals were subject to.” The presentation also included updated information about the uptick in attacks on Jews in this country, including attacks related to anti-Israel propaganda.
We are so grateful to the Newmans for telling Mr. Kay’s story, and for including films of his personal account. We hope that other high schools will be as open to Holocaust education as Carrboro High School has been.