Does history repeat itself? The choice is ours

One of my amusing former teaching experiences occurred when a student in my American History class asked me a question just as I began passing out the weekly 20-question, multiple-choice quiz, which covered the week’s work.
“Mr. Kasten, does history repeat itself?” Since his question did not relate to anything on this quiz, I assumed he asked, hoping that I would be so engulfed in answering his question that I wouldn’t have time to give the quiz, and might postpone the quiz altogether.
As interesting a question as it was, I wasn’t going to allow it to stand in the way of my prepared quiz.
I suggested instead, that they could earn “extra credit” when they returned Monday with an example of how history repeated itself or was in danger of doing so.
Here’s how history is in danger of repeating itself:
Many German Jews were highly assimilated — were decorated veterans of World War I and chose to stay in Germany — while others, especially after Kristallnacht, began to flee the country.
As the Nazi grip tightened, many German and Polish Jews fled to the countryside to join bands of guerrillas hiding in the woods — or tried to leave Europe for Canada, Africa or the Americas.
Sadly, there were also many Jews — especially the elderly and children, who could not escape and became Holocaust victims — reduced to slave labor, victims of “medical” experiments, or reduced to bones and ashes.
The “lucky ones” were the Jews of Germany, Austria and Poland that sent their children away to relative safety in Palestine, or in England on the “Kindertransport.”
The extent of the Nazis’ concentration camp system was much greater and diverse than most people realize. In 2013, researchers at the U.S. Holocaust Museum documented hard evidence that there were 42,500 camps and ghettos throughout Europe.
In addition to the more well-known death camps such as Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald and Dachau, there were other facilities where Jewish slave labor was used on a regular basis — where torture and “punishment” was a daily event.
A Holocaust research group issued the following stats: 30,000 slave labor camps, 1,150 ghettos, 980 concentration camps, 1,000 POW camps, 500 brothels, and thousands of other camps for killing and experimentation in all of Nazi-occupied Europe.
Forced labor camps were everywhere. Given that there were so many locations where prisoners were transported and used on a regular basis (3,000 camps in Berlin and 1,300 “Jew-houses” in Hamburg), the citizens of those cities had to know of the existence of those camps.
Today we have white nationalists parading anti-Semitism and other hatreds.
That is why Holocaust museums and museums of intolerance are so important. They display the truth and horror of what happened — what must not happen again to any people.
Many of the soldiers who freed the camp, including Lt. Rudy Baum (of blessed memory) and Mike Jacobs (of blessed memory), survived the camps to tell the stories they have passed on.
If history, this darkest page of history — the Holocaust — is not to be repeated against any people, it will be the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum — and all the other Holocaust museums — that will make it so.
In September 2019, the newest Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum will be open to help educate young and old as to the dangers of prejudice and discrimination, no matter what form it may take.
We must be alert to the great danger of history repeating itself. As the Dallas Holocaust Museum states: “An Upstander stands up for other people and their rights, combats injustice, inequality or unfairness, sees something wrong and works to make it right.”
Only then will Holocaust history not be repeated.

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