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Wake-Up Call

Night of Broken Glass: Swept-up memory

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By voluntary self-exclusion, among the least diverse audiences are moviegoers attending a film with a Holocaust theme. These cinematic efforts just don't seem to have broad cultural-spectrum appeal. 

Perhaps they're just redundant and old hat. Maybe there's an element of anti-Semitism, a collective subconscious boycott of which even the snubbers themselves are unaware.

Still, the relevance of these movies is intensifying by the hour as we witness global, national and local developments. Perhaps time bombs must run their course as each generation revisits them.

November 9 will mark the 84th anniversary of Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) but who's marking it?

Although rabid anti-Semitism had already ravaged Germany even before the Nazis were democratically elected years earlier, that day was the springboard for the drastic, government-ordered hysterical escalation of every form of violence that culminated in the the largest-scale mass murder in world history: the Holocaust. 

But few people pay it any mind today, except for the posterity of those directly affected. Our schools are barely, certainly not effectively covering it. Just enough to protect the DOE's butt from the shining sun.

According to a recent study of New York millennials, 58 percent were unable to identify a single concentration camp, such as Treblinka, one of many, where one million Jews were murdered in one year. Almost one-third of the millennial sample are convinced that the Holocaust was a self-serving tall-tale. Around one-fifth insist that the Jews provoked their own annihilation.

Another study reveals that 60 percent of New Yorkers aged 18-39 are unaware that one-third of the world's Jewish population was annihilated by the Nazis during the Holocaust. This reveals their ignorance, but the venal revelation is that when confronted with this knowledge, many of them still appear unmoved and show their apathy or antipathy by certain of their political stands on local and global events.

The Holocaust is being glossed over, trivialized, marginalized, sanitized, finessed and generalized. Those actions are baby-steps towards outright denial. 

If it's nothing more venal than apathy, then we're living in a new age of what The Hollywood Reporter calls an "apatholypse.”

Governor Kathy Hochul recently signed the Holocaust Education Bill, which theoretically will sensitize students to the dangers of skating on the tin ice of Jew-baiting. This law will no doubt create yet another box for bureaucrats to check off, confirming for the record that they're in compliance.

It's such an onerous and non-glamorous chore to sign off on nominal mandates! In this case, a "corrective action plan" must be prepared and submitted to politicians and their press offices, if the slippery "learning standards" are not grasped.

Another righteous-sounding charade

Teaching about the Holocaust has been part of New York State's social studies since the breached birth of the 21st century. The result has been as palpable as a dust mite on a sterilized surgical table. Texts were written with disappearing ink, judging from the Jews being at or near the top of victims of hate crimes in New York City.

Soon all surviving witnesses to the Holocaust will flat-line, and even some of their descendants will will assimilate among those who reject memory.

Not even genocide is indelibly branded  on our conscience and certainly not in academia anymore. Curiosity about human extermination is memorialized in the materials of some of the DOE's vendors. 

But there is no "fire in the belly” of the text, but a pilot light instead.

It can be charitably observed that the treatment of the Holocaust theme in our schools is a sin of omission, rather than a passive intellectual pogrom. It's more culpably sinister on the higher education level.

The City University of New York has arguably become an on-again, off-again hothouse of overt anti-Semitism. Whether it is rampant is highly subjective. In the interest of curbing triggers of unhelpful emotionalism, I won't name-call. 

But there are red flags.

Reportedly, students at CUNY's law school resolved to ban Hillel, a cultural presence on colleges for generations that is by no stretch of any imagination, an extremist group. There have been many other credible charges of anti-Semitism expressed in many ways.

To investigate these allegations, CUNY chose an advocate whose affiliations and expressed sympathies have not inspired universal confidence in their objectivity. She is certainly polarizing, and people regard her as either a human-rights fighter or a terrorist sympathizer.

Since it is universally agreed that the chances of a successful outcome are optimized when mistrust is minimized, and since "perception" is crucial, whether or not it is justified, the choice of such a controversial investigator likely aggravated rather than de-escalated the conflict.

Whether she merits animosity or affinity, her role was a distraction and clouded the issue.

The venom of anti-Semitism is sometimes injected into the stream of debate on college campuses by the use of coded language with geopolitical references and pretexts

CUNY is, of course, a public university, no less subject to government oversight than are private institutions such as Yeshiva University, which was recently cited for intolerance of a minority group. "The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found the university had violated the Civil Rights Act by allowing discrimination on campus,” according to the Daily News.

Dozens of CUNY faculty members left the Professional Staff Congress after that union passed a resolution that was interpreted as being couched anti-Semitism. History's record shows that there are many dresses in the wardrobe of anti-Semitism.

Last summer's City Council hearing on anti-Semitism was postponed for several weeks in order to accommodate CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriquez's timetable, but he twice neglected to show up. 

Bad optics to say the least.

After an outcry that was awkward from a publicity standpoint, he showed leadership by directing almost $1million to set up a database for tracking hate crimes and also an eight-point plan to combat anti-Semitism on CUNY's 25 campuses.

Probably after holding their nose and cursing under their long-held breath, they begrudgingly adopted the International Remembrance Alliance's non-legally binding definition of anti-Semitism in all its guises. Their toolkit is available, but I doubt there's much demand for it.

It was imperative and opportune to light a fire under the CUNY chancellor, but his flesh eventually consented to feel the burn. Give him credit, though, sometimes late is not much better or different from never.

Anti-Semitism on our college campuses might be reduced if our schools provided more than lip service to the meaning and legacy of the Holocaust.

Let's not lie to ourselves by attributing this gross failure to oversight or fear of traumatizing children. They can and need to fathom the unfathomable, as they have done through curriculum units focused on other lamentable chapters of history.

We are not protecting the "innocence' of students by safeguarding their ignorance. We are the voice of the voiceless victims of inhumanity echoing interminably through the ages.

The Holocaust is Jew-specific. But there have been other huge-scale slaughters that must also be taught fearlessly and in their full dimension, even if it may ignite the wrath of the original oppressors who may be protagonists on the world stage.

"Never forget"! Just a passé slogan or a call to preemptive victory before the next battle-cycle for survival?

This year on Kristallnacht, there won't be a peep of utterance about the Holocaust in our schools.  Except perhaps for a few clandestine groups of aging children of the incinerated martyrs who may gather on their own time in the teachers lounge with rotating members on lookout duty.

One of the chief Nazi war criminals, who was hanged in 1946 after the Nuremberg trials, predicted that Kristallnacht would be forgotten in a few decades.

An evil prophecy but a prescient one nonetheless. How does New York City stand out?

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