Our opinion: Lest we forget the lesson

Less than a century ago madness reigned in Germany.

The fighting to free Europe from the explosion of that insanity cost millions of lives, including hundreds of thousands of American lives, but millions more were methodically exterminated by the Third Reich.

We now call it the Holocaust, a generic term for unthinkable destruction with a capital letter designating a genocidal campaign not sufficiently described by a generic word.

Following World War II and during the campaign to establish a Jewish state in the Middle East, there was a slogan: “Never Again.”

Living up to that slogan isn’t ensured by the establishment of the State of Israel.

It is only ensured by our collective memory of the tragedy.

There is a bill before the Pennsylvania General Assembly that would mandate instruction about the Holocaust in public schools in the state, a measure that is not supported by the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition.

While that lukewarm reception may seem counter-intuitive, the rationale behind it better explains the position. Obviously the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition whole-heartedly supports education about the Holocaust, but it is suspicious of curriculum mandates, which might open the door similar requirements for more controversial and divisive subjects. That fear might also be shared by enough members of the legislature to sink the idea completely.

Instead, the coalition supports the restoration of the $60,000 in dedicated funding for aiding teachers in their presentation of the Holocaust and its consequences to their students. That funding was cut during the Great Educational Purge of 2009 and has never been restored.

Frankly, we can’t imagine a school system that would ignore the Holocaust in its curriculum.

Our children and generations to come, must understand the underpinnings of this tragic period of world history, as well as others we could rattle off. The world did not give up genocide after World War II; it has continued on lesser scales in a dozen other places around the globe.

Still, the systematic extermination of Jews, Slavs, Roma, people with disabilities, and other groups stands alone in its scope and provides lessons that cannot be ignored.