State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and the California Department of Education have launched an oral history speaker series for Holocaust survivors and encourage schools statewide to participate in future events. The speaker series began last week at El Cerrito High School in the West Contra Costa Unified School District and provided more than 100 students with the opportunity to hear testimony from local Holocaust survivor Lisa Brinner.
“We encourage all districts and local educational agencies to consider hosting one of these important events with a Holocaust survivor who lives in their community and wants to share their story,” Thurmond said. “In this current media environment, with so much misinformation online, it’s critical for students to hear the truth first-hand about this horrific time in history.”
At the event last week, student leaders representing the Jewish Student Union, the Muslim Student Association, and the Amnesty International Club at El Cerrito High School welcomed Brinner in person and students from five other high schools in the West Contra Costa Unified School District were able to ask questions in order to understand Brinner’s experience.
Thurmond is the co-chair of the Governor’s Council on Holocaust and Genocide Education. A nationwide survey released in 2020 showed a lack of “Holocaust knowledge” among adults under 40; more than one in 10 respondents did not recall ever having heard the word “Holocaust.” Sixty-three percent of Millennials and Generation Z surveyed did not know that six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, and over half who did know thought the death toll was fewer than two million people. More than 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos were established during World War II, but nearly half of U.S. respondents failed to name a single one. Recent surveys indicate that one in five young Americans think the Holocaust is a myth.
Educators who are interested in bringing these historic testimonies to their students should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.