Philosopher George Santayana is often attributed with coining the phrase, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Such a well-known saying almost seems cliché. But does it have merit? Reflecting on Ecclesiastes 1:9, we know there is nothing new under the sun, and we often see history repeat itself, or even take on new meaning (for better or for worse).
As time widens the gap between the past and the present, it’s easy to forget what has occurred. Perhaps more concerning, it’s easy to remember historical events incorrectly. This begets three possible outcomes: learning the wrong lessons, fabricating lessons that push a certain narrative, or just not learning any lesson at all. The actions of our day imply we’ve experienced all three.
Osama Bin Laden, founder of the terrorist organization al-Qaeda and primary perpetrator of the 9/11 terrorist attack, wrote a “Letter to America” in which he explained his motivation behind the tragic event in American history. The fall of the Twin Towers, the strike at the Pentagon, the plane that crashed in the Pennsylvania field, and the thousands of innocent people injured or killed that day, drastically changed America. Yet, last month, bin Laden’s letter exploded across the internet, and many of the viewers praised what the terrorist had to say.
“I feel like I’m going through an existential crisis right now,” some said. Others read the propaganda and insisted they “will never look at life” or “this country the same.” I believe it goes without saying that terrorists do not and will never deserve sympathy. Yet, how easy is it for lies to be perceived as truth? And the rise of social media use (TikTok in this case), and the increasing message of wokeness, has only added to the spread of deception. So, these waves of ignorance continue.
A recent poll conducted by YouGov, although not the first of its kind, revealed one in five young American adults believe the Holocaust never happened. At least 30% of the respondents, ages 18 to 29, doubt the authenticity of the event, and about a quarter of this same group claimed the retelling of this historical account has been “exaggerated.”
In 2020, the first “50-state survey of Holocaust knowledge among millennials and Generation Z” was released, and the results showed a “lack of basic Holocaust knowledge.” If there was concern about how people viewed the Holocaust three years ago, it can’t be surprising that the concern has only grown worse — especially as history continues to unfold and our societal problems increase.
Anti-Semitism has grown to its highest percent in about three decades. Since the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, the question many are asking is, did the attacks spark this outburst in anti-Semitism, or did it expose what had already been building for some time?
While there’s much evidence to support the latter, this poll alone indicates that, in addition to young Americans not knowing much about the Holocaust or whether it happened, many of them have politicized the 1940s Jewish genocide. When analyzing the partisan differences, the survey demonstrated 26% of those who voted for Biden and 13% of those who voted for Trump in the 2020 election believe Israel “exploits Holocaust victimhood for its own purposes.” In other words, for some, the Holocaust is just another piece of propaganda meant to serve one party and degrade another. How unfortunate.
It’s also sad that some of America’s most prominent Ivy League school presidents won’t do anything about the anti-Semitism spreading on their campuses. Or that young Americans see no problem in calling for the eradication of the Jewish state and people. It’s hard to believe the hatred toward and rhetoric against the people of Israel has gone so far that the Hamas murderers, rapists, and brutal, stone-cold terrorists, have racked up support and sympathy.
It’s incredible that the Holocaust, where six million Jews were burned alive, starved, gassed to death, worked to death, tortured in concentration camps, ripped from their families, used as props for surgical experiments, and deprived of every basic human right known to man, has been forgotten or denied by many. Obviously, the word, “unfortunate,” does not do justice. But it’s not just “unfortunate” to forget the past. It’s dangerous, and is often driven by dangerous ideologies.
Meg Kilgannon, senior fellow for Education Studies at Family Research Council, commented to The Washington Stand, “This phenomenon is a strange combination of American youth being unchurched and uneducated.” She continued, “When people young or old are unaware of who the Jewish people are in salvation history, they will be unable to believe something like the Holocaust could happen to them or anyone else.”
Letting go of history by any means — be it misinterpretation, forgetfulness, purposeful politicization, or denial — means the future will be affected by it, and often not in a positive way. “The Marxist march through our institutions includes the church and the schools,” Kilgannon added. “And the result of this will not be a communist utopia, but rather a hellscape where terrorist attacks are normalized as ‘anticolonial.’”
She concluded, “You can only maintain such an insane narrative when historical events like the Holocaust are lost to history.”
Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.
POST ON X:
🚨 Christian veteran BEHEADS and tears down the Satanic l Statue at the Iowa State Capitol pic.twitter.com/EVVxPGfFqa
— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) December 14, 2023
EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2023 Family Research Council.
The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.