Why We Need To Know Our History

When I was in grade school, I was fascinated by history. It was so interesting that just hearing about it in school wasn’t enough; I wanted to know more. As I spent most of my Saturdays in the library anyway, I read everything I could find about the *Holocaust and the bombing of **Hiroshima.

I was both fascinated and horrified to know what human beings did to other human beings. I went to my father and asked him if such things could ever happen again. He was reading the newspaper at the time, but he put it down and answered me. He told me that yes, it was horrible that so many innocents were killed. He told me this: “And if you think that this can’t happen again; it CAN.”

I asked him why it could when everyone knew how horrible it was. Dad’s answer was this: “it could happen because people don’t learn from history. It can happen all over again; don’t ever doubt it.”

I remember that I couldn’t sleep that night, worrying that such a horrible thing could actually happen again. By then I was already infamous in school for being a know-it-all and a history nerd. Those two horrific events were in my mind all the time. Even to this day I can see the start of similar horrors; in fact, there have been horrors for years. But the worst thing, in my mind anyway, is that schools seem to have dropped history (American and/or others). How in the world can we avoid the devasting mistakes of the past if we don’t understand and study history?

Whenever I see or hear students being asked about our history and the history of other countries, it’s shocking to hear that they don’t know anything about it. Simply put, if we do not know and/or understand our own history as well as the history of others, the same madness, cruelty and horror can happen again. In fact, it IS happening again.

We live in a time where we are too complacent for our own good. History can certainly happen all over again. I pray to God that it doesn’t. I still have hope, but I fear that the horrors of the past are waking up and shaking their hoary heads all over again.

*Regarding the Holocaust, written by Michael Berenbaum:

Alternative Titles: Hurban, Shoʾah

Holocaust, Hebrew Shoʾah (“Catastrophe”), Yiddish and Hebrew Ḥurban (“Destruction”), the systematic state-sponsored killing of six million Jewish men, women, and children and millions of others by NaziGermany and its collaborators during World War II. The Germans called this “the final solution to the Jewish question.” Yiddish-speaking Jews and survivors in the years immediately following their liberation called the murder of the Jews the Ḥurban, the word used to describe the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. Shoʾah (“Catastrophe”) is the term preferred by Israelis and the French, most especially after Claude Lanzmann’s masterful 1985 motion picture documentary of that title. It is also preferred by people who speak Hebrew and by those who want to be more particular about the Jewish experience or who are uncomfortable with the religious connotations of the word Holocaust. Less universal and more particular, Shoʾah emphasizes the annihilation of the Jews, not the totality of Nazi victims.

 

**”On August 6, 1945, during World War II (1939-45), an American B-29 bomber dropped the world’s first deployed atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The explosion wiped out 90 percent of the city and immediately killed 80,000 people; tens of thousands more would later die of radiation exposure. Three days later, a second B-29 dropped another A-bomb on Nagasaki, killing an estimated 40,000 people. Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced his country’s unconditional surrender in World War II in a radio address on August 15, citing the devastating power of “a new and most cruel bomb.”

 

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