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Spanish philosopher George Santayana famously wrote in Life of Reason that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” How did the Holocaust – such a dark period in human history – happen? And why should San Antonio residents, decades later, even care?
It’s not simply about the fact that San Antonio is home to a large and vibrant Jewish community. It’s not just that the tapestry of our city’s faith and culture has been rooted in the stories of survival and resilience.
It is because the Holocaust, and its stories showing every part of the spectrum of humanity, explain who we are as people of the world. It is easy to be paralyzed by our collective memory of prison camps and the horrors they contained. When I think about my own grandfather and grandmother, Jews who came to the United States from Eastern Europe to get away from what would ultimately become a war on their culture, I can get stuck there, too.
But then we remember that the Holocaust happened in the modern, industrialized world. It happened in Europe, where some of the murderers are thought to still be living today. It happened because ignorance begat intolerance, hatred and, ultimately, genocide. Despite the dark example that is the Holocaust, the same roots of intolerance can still exist today.
Written in 1905, Santayana’s words stand true today and the genocide that proliferated Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany is a perfect example of history that no one should ever forget.
Fortunately, to learn about that history, one doesn’t have to hold a passport or travel to Europe. Right here in San Antonio, we have our own Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio (HMMSA), with information, exhibits, and programs that work together to reach our community and ensure we all have the opportunity to learn the lessons of the Holocaust.
The HMMSA, located at the Campus of the Jewish Community on N.W. Military Hwy., dedicates countless hours to educate our community and the next generation on the dangers of hatred, prejudice, and apathy. The history of World War II and the Holocaust are dynamic, fascinating, and heartbreaking. It’s a history we should all know by heart, no matter how far we get from these events. That is the goal of the outreach efforts at HMMSA, and we appreciate the local teachers, funding and partners who help make this a reality for both educators and students.
This month, we are very grateful to AT&T for its generous support. A recent grant, given through the company’s signature education initiative AT&T Aspire program will help provide the necessary tools and resources to local teachers so they may accurately and sensitively portray to young people the devastation that occurred during that dark period of human history.
This includes screenings of Holocaust films, presentations from scholars and survivors, and the Holocaust Study Seminar, an immersive program that culminates with a trip to Eastern Europe where students will have the opportunity to learn more directly at historical Holocaust sites.
Additionally, in cooperation with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, a summer program for teachers is planned, with hands-on workshops, program planning and resources to ensure that the world will learn, remember and never repeat the horrors of the Holocaust. I encourage any teacher in the greater San Antonio area to reach out to the HMMSA to see how they can become a part of this important initiative.
More than 11 million people were murdered during the Holocaust, a human tragedy of unfathomable proportions. It is critical that we learn this difficult history. By understanding the Holocaust, we can keep ourselves from repeating it.