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Readers React: Nazi salute video shows how desperately we need better education about the Holocaust, readers say

Parents, students and community members attend a crowded meeting at Newport Harbor High School on March 4 about the photos and video showing students giving the Nazi salute.
Parents, students and community members attend a crowded meeting at Newport Harbor High School on March 4 about the photos and video showing students giving the Nazi salute.
(Los Angeles Times)

As someone who grew up and went to school in the 1980s and ’90s, I recall always being aware of the Holocaust — the scale of it, the millions killed, the hate that drove it. Events where survivors spoke of their experiences and the family and friends they lost were common. Combat veterans were often brought in to supplement the history lessons in our books. A recording I made of a conversation with my grandmother about her childhood in a Nazi-occupied country was played in my fifth-grade class.

I mention this because, in the wake of viral online video showing red cups arranged in the shape of a swastika and teenagers giving the Nazi salute at a Costa Mesa house party, many letter writers are blaming what they believe is inadequate education about the Holocaust and World War II. With the population of veterans and survivors dwindling, several readers are stressing the importance of visiting places like the Museum of Tolerance and a renewed commitment to teaching about the deadliest episode of human history.

Oak Park resident Earl Roth says Holocaust education is a community effort:

Inclusion of lessons about the Holocaust in schools does not guarantee that students will not hate. Many times an instructor in class will skip over certain material, and often parents have not educated children about the Holocaust before kids gain access to social media.

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Discussions in families, schools and other groups should take place about the 6 million Jews and the 11 million other European non-Jews who were killed in the Holocaust. Hundreds of thousands of American military personnel died because of the enemy’s obedience to what the swastika and the Nazi salute represented.

The Holocaust and World War II need to be taught more seriously by parents, educators and the community as a whole.

Palm Desert resident Rebecca Hertsgaard, a college instructor, used this incident as a teachable moment:

The incident in Orange County sparked one of the most amazing days I’ve experienced as a college philosophy professor. The conversation evolved into one about discrimination in all its forms.

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I had no idea that my students had endured so much. Many of them are Hispanic, some are African American, one is Palestinian; all have suffered bigotry in one form or another. It was a truly emotionally draining class for all of us. I felt privileged that they felt safe enough in my classroom to share their stories.

What I am most angry about is not so much the fact that the teenagers pulled this stunt, but that somehow they were allowed to think it was funny.

Donald Peppars of Pomona wants students to look at images from concentration camps:

The Orange County students who had a great time saluting the arrangement of red cups need to see pictures of American soldiers at the end of World War II walking into concentration camps and encountering men and women so skinny they could see their ribs.

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The Holocaust was real. These young high school students need to be introduced to history, to see the gas chambers, to see pictures of mutilated bodies, to know and understand that these atrocities were real.

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