The Holocaust & Confronting Hatred Today

The Holocaust remains a very emotional and challenging piece of history and it is still a topic of discussion in contemporary society. In addition to their physical museum space, staff members at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) encourage conversation about the Holocaust through new forums. As part of the museum’s podcast series called Voices on Antisemitism a segment was recently released entitled Confronting Hatred – 70 Years After the Holocaust. The podcast includes a variety of people, including filmmakers, a singer, a teacher, a Holocaust survivor, and a former white supremacist, talking about antisemitism, racism, and how hatred grows. Their thoughts not only tell us a story of past events, but also inspire us for the future by setting an example for change.

The Holocaust has been discussed in many formats, including films, novels and exhibits. The USHMM has now another format, the podcast, to that list. This platform makes information accessible, because the material, including a transcription, is free and available both on the USHMM’s website and iTunes. As long as they have access to the internet and an understanding of English, listeners around the world can hear this podcast. Much like the graphic novel Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, using a podcast to share narratives on the Holocaust is quite innovative, and can reach new audiences. [2]

 

Tower USHMM
Tower of Faces

Confronting Hatred – 70 Years After the Holocaust also provides a way to humanize the content by including personal narratives and biographies of a wide range of people. The podcast format allows listeners to hear people sharing their own experiences, adding another element of personalization. Similar to the photographs in Tower of Faces at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum [3], hearing the voices of individual people and their stories reminds us that each person brings their own unique perspective and experiences to the discussion. In the podcast Christopher Browning states:

I think we have to preserve the human dimensions of it. Never losing sight that the whole purpose of this is to capture the horror of what all of this means. Because of course, once you start treating the perpetrators as human beings, then you are faced with that uncomfortable awareness that: Are they fundamentally different than I am? And, in that situation, what would I have done? [1]

Not only does Confronting Hatred discuss the Holocaust and its ramifications, but it also includes connections to contemporary issues involving racism and hatred. As Morgan Freeman leads us through the podcast with his narration, we hear the accounts of nine very different people who are confronting hatred in their own way.

The podcast begins with historian Christopher Browning urging the listener to never forget that humans are indeed capable of immense harm, a powerful statement reminding us of the damage of the Holocaust. Greg Gordon shares his experience as a prosecutor for the Rwandan genocide and encourages the listener not to overlook the power of propaganda in dehumanizing victims and contributing to the perpetuation of hatred. A former white supremacist, Frank Meeink describes the dangers of the genuine camaraderie and sense of power that make hate groups so appealing to young people. His suggestion is very simple, “The first step in confronting hatred is to get people with different backgrounds to come together, to learn something about each other.” [1]

Throughout the podcast, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Elie Wiesel’s words warn against the dangers of indifference.

Elie_Wiesel_(1987)_by_Erling_Mandelmann_-_2
Elie Wiesel (1987)

Indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor—never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten. The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees—not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope, is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity, we betray our own. [1]

The podcast includes the words of Imam Mohamed Magid, the executive counsel of the Islamic Society of North America. As a Muslim religious leader, he strives to be a voice of tolerance in the face of antisemitism and hatred of any kind. Mo Asumang, a German filmmaker, uses her films as an opportunity to start a conversation with members of contemporary hate groups. Although her work is too intense for some viewers, Asumang believes that film has real power to encourage change.

Overall, the podcast promotes the idea that talking about hatred is the first step to learning how it develops and creating ways to confront it. Including a wide range of perspectives gives listeners many opportunities to relate to the stories and experiences being told. Both the accessibility and reality of the podcast provide meaningful narratives to a wide audience. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has created multiple outlets to share narratives from past and present as a way to inspire its visitors to confront hatred.

 

 

[1] https://www.ushmm.org/confront-antisemitism/confronting-hatred-70-years-after-the-holocaust/podcast-special

[2] Art Spiegelman, Maus: A Survivor’s Tale I. My Father Bleeds History (New York, Pantheon Books, 1986).

[3] Linenthal, Edward. Preserving Memory: The Struggle to Create America’s Holocaust Museum. 1995.

Photograph of Elie Wiesel https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Elie_Wiesel#/media/File:Elie_Wiesel_(1987)_by_Erling_Mandelmann_-_2.jpg

Tower of Faces, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:15_23_0224_USHMM.jpg

One thought on “The Holocaust & Confronting Hatred Today

  1. I have often been told that, as Wiesel said, apathy is the most dangerous obstacle to affecting change and striking down oppression and hatred. I have to agree, but I feel just as damaging is insulation. In many respects, apathy entails a degree of knowledge, just shorn of an impetus to want do anything, or to care. But with insularity, people are simply ignorant of things going on, and cannot even manufacture the capacity to consider the damage of hatred, suffering, and the factors that propel them. They are often closed off in artificial, borderline-saccharine bubbles of what they choose to see and know. I feel these podcasts are especially useful to raise people out of apathy, but I feel it is equally useful for people who have closed off and tuned out, to not even consider these things. To the extent it humanizes these perspectives, contextualizes how these things can take place, and is accessible, it can represent an effective and impactful new way of knowing and discovering.

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