2014 First Place Winner

My Responsibility to Keep the Memory of the Holocaust Alive
Written by: Amy Arlov

“An African American and a Jew are playing basketball in an oven. Who will win?” The answer to the joke: “The Jew because he has home court advantage.” This was told to me by my brother a couple of days ago. Initially, I did not understand the reference he was making. He then explained, “You know, the Holocaust. Now do you get it?” I was immediately disturbed by the fact that my brother, a person with a religious education and practicing Jew, could refer to the Holocaust as a joke. Even more concerning was that he heard it being shared amongst several students in the boys’ locker room. The Holocaust is no laughing matter. It disgusted me that these students, the vast majority who received an education on the Holocaust in grade school, found it the slightest bit amusing. Although these boys were joking about the Holocaust, I believe that deep down, they know it is a very serious and important topic. Unfortunately, it seems that today’s youth have lost the connection to the reality of the Holocaust’s devastating effects since it directly impacted people of past generations. Yes, people know six million Jews died and they are aware of concentration camps, Hitler and the Nazis. But do they understand the stories and details of those directly affected? I believe the answer to this question is no. I am a fourth-generation Holocaust descendant. My great-grandmother travelled alone as a teenager to America in the late 1930s as the Holocaust was underway. Her younger sister, my great aunt, was less fortunate and was detained in a concentration camp in the early 1940s. Miraculously, she survived and came to the United States following the war. The remainder of the family disappeared in Germany. I have learned about the Holocaust through my religious studies and visits to both the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. and the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie. Through my experiences and interactions with peers, teachers and family, I have concluded that as a Holocaust descendant, it is my responsibility to perpetuate the lessons of the Holocaust to others who are less educated or have lost a connection to it. It is my intention to forever remember and enlighten younger generations of the six million Jews who died mercilessly at the hands of the Nazis as the world stood by. I shall strive to exemplify fairness and respect for those weaker, less fortunate and disabled. I will speak out for injustice and prejudice against minority populations and encourage others to follow. When I think about the persecution of Jews in the Holocaust, I draw a parallel in my mind to modern day bullying. With the growth of social media, bullying has escalated to dangerous proportions affecting the well being of people throughout society. Bullies find fault in who people are which is no different than Hitler and the Nazis. Bullies, verbally and physically hurt those they are able to. Many choose to “ignore and walk away” as children are suffering its consequences. If a bystander chooses to respond and intervene, many can be supported to reclaim their identity. Many lives will be saved and pain will diminish. Whether it concerns a friend, co- worker, peer or minority group member, it is our obligation to stand up and defend others who need our help. The Holocaust occurred because people let it happen and I vow to try to end world genocide and keep educating others.