STATEMENT OF NEED
Upon talking to others about this Project, those of us involved are always met with one of two distinct responses. Either people congratulate us on a great idea, or they ask us why the world needs another Holocaust education project.
The educational portion of this project is not targeted at survivors and their children. This project aims to reach those whose lives were not directly touched by the events in Europe some 60 years ago. They may not know much more than a few meaningless names and dates or they may only have heard a few statistics. We feel that being able to regurgitate the names of concentration camps or to recall the date Hitler invaded Poland on a history test is not what Holocaust education should be. The real education occurs only when we can make kids think critically about what happened, why it happened and how it could possibly have happened.
According to a 1998 study by the Anti-Defamation League, there are between 20 and 25 million anti-Semitic Americans. While the study found that the group most likely to hold anti-Semitic views is over 65, the increasing use of the Internet as a source of information by our younger generations has made them the unwitting targets of the new wave of hate and revisionist propaganda that has begun to flood the World Wide Web. The Internet is quickly becoming the foremost reference tool for many young people and the content of the Web is available to anyone with a computer, giving hate groups broad access to a vast pool of young, curious minds.
Even more unsettling, however, is the fact that the social views of children and teenagers become increasingly solidified as they grow into adulthood; by the time most young people reach the age of 20, they are highly unlikely to change the views they hold about other groups of people.
Well-designed educational media, however, can help counteract the damage being caused by the recent resurgence of hate propaganda on the internet as well as in communities across the country. After all, it is one thing for groups like the neo-Nazi National Alliance to peddle their messages of hate to young people and call for acts of violence against Jews, Blacks and gays, but it is far more powerful to show those teenagers the horrifying devastation that hate, combined with violent action, creates.
Equally important to us is that although many Americans today were alive to remember the Holocaust and World War II, the number of people worldwide -- both Holocaust survivors and war veterans -- is, of course, declining each year.
Despite the fact that the war ended only six decades ago, many of today’s high school history books have begun to focus increasingly on the battles, the generals, and the political motives of the countries involved in the war, often times reducing to a mere page or two of text the immense human tragedy that erupted and flared throughout Nazi-occupied Europe for five years.
As young Americans move into the twenty-first century we cannot allow them or their teachers to regard the Holocaust Era as simply "something horrible that happened last century."
The Yellow Star Project was created to meet the needs of school districts and their educators who believe that children must learn about bigotry and hate in order to have the inner resources to recognize it and fight it within their communities.
We are immensely encouraged that in order to ensure that young generations continue to understand the significance of the Holocaust, states are beginning to pass bills that require Holocaust education in their schools, either alone or in conjunction with the African American and Native American experience. However, at the same time, it is troubling that more states have not decided to follow suit with similar legislation.