Will You Let History Repeat Itself?


Selena Avilla

The outside view of the shadowlight cart.

Selena Avilla, Staff Writer

1933, a year the world will never forget. The year that millions of families were torn apart and the way the world once was, was never the same. The Holocaust was a state-sponsored genocide of Jews by the Nazis led by Adolf Hitler. The persecution of the Jews occurred during World War II.

By the end of the war, millions of Jewish people were slaughtered.

The Holocaust was the systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators from 1933 to 1945. In January 1933, Nazi party leader Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany. The NSDAP rapidly transformed Germany from a fragile new democracy into a one-party dictatorship.

He soon began persecuting German Jews. Until 1935, Jews were stripped of their German citizenship. In 1938, a Jewish man was arrested and sent to a concentration camp simply because he was Jewish. Nazi Germany also annexed, raided, and occupied neighboring countries to protect what they called “habitat.”

World War II has begun.

As Germany’s territory expanded, millions of Jews fell under Nazi control. German authorities rounded up the Jews and forced many into ghettos. In the summer of 1941, Nazi Germany and its collaborators began the systematic murder of European Jews. The Nazis called this plan the “Final Solution.” Sometimes, Jews were killed outright – whole villages were rounded up and shot or killed in extermination camps.

Elsewhere, Jews were forced to work for the German war effort until they died of overwork or starvation. In May 1945, the Allies defeated Nazi Germany in World War II. By this time, the Nazis and their collaborators had murdered approximately six million Jews. The Holocaust ended in May 1945. It ended with the military defeat of Nazi Germany and its European allies in World War II.

Although the liberation of Nazi camps was not a priority of the Allied campaign, Soviet, American, British, and Canadian forces released prisoners from SS guards. They provided them with food and much-needed medical supplies and gathered evidence for war crimes trials.

The Holocaust was a turning point not only in the 20th century but throughout human history. Studying the Holocaust is a reminder that democratic institutions and values ​​are not automatically upheld. They need to be cherished, cared for, and protected. The Holocaust was no accident in history. It happened because individuals, organizations, and governments made decisions that not only legalized discrimination but allowed bigotry, hatred, and ultimately genocide. It also teaches us that in any society silence and indifference to the suffering of others and violations of civil liberties can unintentionally perpetuate these problems. Out of millions, only a few of the population survived.

These people continue to share their stories and it’s crucial that we don’t forget them and share them onward.

For example, an organization called Shadowlight‘s mission is “to enable people of all ages, especially students, to connect to the Holocaust on a personal level, both emotionally and physically, and inspire them to make a positive impact on the current world through infusing them with a sense of responsibility and empowerment.” ShadowLight originated for students, by students. It was conceived with the goal of providing an immersive and interactive educational experience for students so that they could empathize with the stories of suffering during the Holocaust, be able to connect history to current prejudices and be infused with inspiration and a sense of responsibility to create a better tomorrow.

Santaluces High School was honored to have Shadowlight visit our school and educate our students about the Holocaust. Recorded voices of Holocaust survivors were played throughout the cattle car. In these recordings, survivors shared their experiences being transported in a similar cattle car to the replica that visitors were standing in. This brought history to life. Visitors heard the survivors describe their experience firsthand: the cramped space, the small windows draped in barbed wire, the darkness, and the fear.

A few of the survivors shown are Hedy Bohm, Nate Leipcinger, Andy Reti, Sol Nayan, and Judy Cohen. Nate Leipcinger described how his father’s quick thinking ultimately saved his life. When Nazis were about to separate him from his father, he told them that his son was actually seventeen and had work experience, though he didn’t and was only fifteen. Thanks to his quick thinking, he was kept with his dad and eventually when the American troops came, they both were liberated. Nate is currently 95 years old with lots of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Hedy Bohm described how she was taken out of her home and placed into a cattle cart far away from her home. She even describes the last time she saw her mother. The last slide of the exhibit shows images of today’s news and how there is still so much hate for who people are. Whether it’s Jewish, African American, Asian, Hispanic, or even LGBTQ.

When asked what one takeaway that high school students should learn from this, Randy Posner, one of the directors in charge of the Shadowlight cart replied, “We want our high school students of Palm Beach County to walk away with making sure that they remember what happened during the Holocaust and what happened to the six million Jewish People who were murdered by pure hatred and that’s what happened when hate goes uncheck.”

Our very own Santaluces high school teacher, Mr. Weiner, helped out with this activity. He is a Holocaust teacher and has a passion for educating our students about the importance of learning about these events. Mr. Weiner felt that the Holocaust was “A very powerful experience for students to be able to see what those conditions were like.”

It’s truly heartbreaking to know that so many people’s lives were destroyed so drastically. It’s crucial that we NEVER forget what happened during these times to ensure that history won’t repeat itself. How many more lives have to be ruined for people to stop the hate? It all starts with you. Be the outlier in society. What type of person do u want to be?

Will you let history repeat itself?