What Have You Heard About the Holocaust?

In this area where I live, the Jewish community is absent and in order to explain to my students who the Jews even are, I have to engage in the following kind of dialogue that annoys me beyond what I can express.

Me: Have you heard of the Holocaust?

Students: Yes.

Me: So what is it?

Students: When many people died?

(Note the “died.” Like they just got old and died, or didn’t take their vitamins and died.)

Me: What people?


Me: Why did they die?


Me: Who killed them?

Students: Bad guys?

Me: Yes, you could put it that way. Bad guys.

15 thoughts on “What Have You Heard About the Holocaust?

    1. And then people tell me I simplify my material too much. Like I have a choice when this is what I have to deal with.

      Of course, if they don’t know who Jews are, this means they aren’t anti-semitic. So I guess that’s positive. I still haven’t been able to figure this out.


  1. Oh my…
    I first heard about the Holocaust when I was in Kindergarten. My father gave me a children’s book to explain the story of Anne Frank, and told me it was very important to always remember her and the other people who were killed (not ‘died’) including my relatives.
    The only real instance of Holocaust ignorance I remember encountering as an adult wasn’t ignorance about it occurring, it was just being tasteless, someone from “Jews for Jesus” (a very creepy cult) was passing out their leaflets on Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. I told the girl that it was that day, and she said “Oh… That’s nice. Would you like a leaflet?”
    It took every fibre of my nerve to not tell her she had the tact of a teaspoon and light her stupid pamphlets on fire.


    1. Yesterday, I was recording one of my lectures and I had to re-record several times the part where I say “It only took Spain 500 years to recognize its guilt for expelling the Jews” because I got emotional and my voice kept breaking. So you can imagine how I dig such conversations.


  2. They don’t have any clue about Holocaust. Tell them to watch “Schindler’s list” if they want to find out. A movie is more pleasant to watch than a book to read…That’s why I recommend the movie (for your students). 😀 It’s common knowledge. They need to know about these things.


  3. What level are these students? I don’t think I’ve ever searched this out, but you teach college/university level right?

    The area I grew up in is mostly German decent…with a lot of Mennonites thrown in there. Actually, mostly Mennonite (not old order/Amish, just your modern Mennonites). Heck, I was born in Kitchener (which used to be New Berlin). I can’t remember when I first learned about the Holocaust, but I definitely learned about it in depth. I don’t remember what movies about it specifically, but I remember the pictures and the stories. I never actually read ‘Anne Frank’ in school, but I saw the play and I have now been to the museum/house. I think there were other classes that read it though.

    For me, history classes that touch on the 2 World Wars is something I assume everyone’s gone through….or maybe that’s just in Canada…or Ontario…or I don’t know. I would assume that since both of them were a pretty big deal that they would have at least been touched on at some point in every students life before college/university.


    1. These are college freshmen. Ironically, we have a huge community of the descendants of German immigrants in the area.

      I’m completely stunned by this, too. One thing I never expected to have to explain is what the word “Jew” means.


  4. I wonder what would have happened if you asked them how many Ukranians were killed by Stalin? I think it would probably be the same confused look they would have if you asked them who Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge were.


  5. When I was growing up in Ohio, I would occasionally be asked whether or not “they have cars in Israel” and “why the Jews did not accept Jesus as their savior.” *sigh*


  6. That’s absurd. I don’t think I personally knew any Jews at all until college, yet by the time I was ten – maybe eight? – I had a comprehensive grasp on the Holocaust. How someone can avoid hearing about it is beyond me.


  7. I, what? Did their parents lock them in a box while they were growing up? How could they not have read Anne Frank? I read that before high school. How did these people pass high school?


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