Aleksander Kwasniewski: On Holocaust Education

Roundup: Talking About History

[Aleksander Kwasniewski was the president of Poland from 1995 to 2005.]

Before questioning the value of Holocaust education,one should first address its goals:

What, exactly, are we trying to achieve in teaching about the Holocaust? Is it realistic to expect that the study of the Holocaust will diminish human rights abuses and racism, and instead nurture democracy and tolerance? Will mixing the narrative of the Holocaust with other types of atrocities really encourage better human behavior?...

Genuine, deep, long-term study of the Holocaust has the power to sensitize people, raise awareness of the other, help identify the preliminary warning signs of genocide, and put the brakes in place.

The Holocaust was the most extreme case of genocide. Indeed, because all the elements are present in the Holocaust — including, but not only: a murderous ideology, technological and bureaucratic means, deligitimization, classification, dispossession and mass murder — it illustrates processes that help us identify the potential for genocide.

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