The lan­guage of hate

BBC History Magazine - - Letters -

Thank you to Michael Wood for his thought-pro­vok­ing, even stir­ring piece about the Holo­caust ( Com­ment, Au­gust). My chil­dren’s schools are teach­ing them to read, lis­ten and watch crit­i­cally by dis­sect­ing ad­verts and in­ter­net posts, sto­ries and news ar­ti­cles. This is vi­tal to help them nav­i­gate the con­stant stream of in­for­ma­tion and mis­in­for­ma­tion they are im­mersed in to­day. Teach­ing the Holo­caust should be part of this.

Look­ing at the books, films, songs, sto­ries and news­pa­pers that helped to cre­ate a cli­mate where Hitler could be elected to power, and di­vide na­tions into Us and Them, would al­low our chil­dren to com­pare ideas and lan­guage then, with the lan­guage of politi­cians, the me­dia and the streets to­day. To study, and to be­gin to un­der­stand, how an ed­u­cated na­tion can be trained to be­come ac­tive or com­plicit in the at­tempted mur­der of an en­tire peo­ple is es­sen­tial. It is the only way we can chal­lenge the lazy think­ing and easy prej­u­dice that al­lows so­ci­ety to de­cide fel­low hu­man be­ings are deemed un­wor­thy of life be­cause of their faith, their ori­gins, pol­i­tics, gen­der, sex­u­al­ity or dis­abil­ity.

The Holo­caust was a unique event in world his­tory, but the is­sues that al­lowed it to hap­pen are never far away. Ed­u­ca­tion and hon­est dis­cus­sion are our only de­fence against prej­u­dice in all its forms. I would add an­other book to your sug­gested read­ing list: Into that Dark­ness by Gitta Sereny. Her calm, thought­ful writ­ing de­picts an or­di­nary fam­ily man who be­came the com­man­der of Tre­blinka – a prospect far more hor­ri­fy­ing than if he were a scream­ing mon­ster. He­len van der Veken, Cheshire

We re­ward the Let­ter of the Month writer with our ‘His­tory Choice’ book of the month. This is­sue, it’s The Lion and the Ea­gle: The In­ter­ac­tion of the Bri­tish and Amer­i­can Em­pires 1783-1972 by Kath­leen Burk. Read the re­view on page 71.

A poster for the anti-Semitic Ger­man film Jud Süss, re­leased in 1940

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