Technology is increasingly important in Holocaust education – seen here in ‘The Journey Back’ within The Richard and Jill Chaifetz Family Virtual Reality Gallery at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. Courtesy of the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, CC BY-NC-ND

In the age of social media, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are no longer lurking on the margins, spewed out by fringe hate groups. De Ye – formerly known as Kanye West – and NBA player Kyrie Irving to members of congress on both sides of the aisle, well-known figures echoed anti-Semitic ideas, often online.

Beyond prominent personalities, there are clear signs that anti-Semitism is becoming more mainstream. In 2021, using the most recent data available, the Anti-Defamation League reported that antisemitic incidents in the United States had reached an absolute record. Eighty-five percent of Americans believe in at least one anti-Jewish trope, according to another ADL survey, and about 20% believe six or more tropes – a big increase from just four years ago. In addition, Jewish university students increasingly report to feel in danger, ostracized or harassed on the campus.

All this is superimposed on a vast ignorance of the Holocaust. As International Holocaust Remembrance Day approaches – on January 27, the day of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau – it is important to rethink the way educators like me design lessons on anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.

Rather than teaching the Holocaust as an isolated event, educators need to understand how it connects to past and present anti-Semitism. This means adapting to the way people learn and live today: online.

Toxic information landscape

The online ecosystem where today’s anti-Semitism thrives is a Wild West information and disinformation that is largely unmonitored, spread in an instant, and published by anyone. Social media posts and news feeds are frequently filtered by algorithms that reduce the content users receive, reinforcing already held beliefs.

Consumer platforms like TikTokwith rapid growth in young people, perhaps used to promote anti-Semitismjust like the lesser known applications like Telegram.

According to a 2022 United Nations report, 17% of public TikTok content related to the Holocaust denied or misrepresented it. The same was true for nearly one in five Holocaust-related Twitter posts and 49% of Holocaust-related content on Telegram.

An emerging danger is artificial intelligence technology. New AI resources offer potential educational tools – but also the threat of easily spread and unmonitored misinformation. For example, AI character and Cat of historical figures allow you to “discuss” with a historical figureincluding those associated with the Holocaust: victims like the Holocaust chronicler Anne Frank to authors such as Joseph GoebbelsAdolf Hitler’s propaganda minister.

These sites come with warnings that character answers might be made up and that users should check for historical accuracy, but it’s easy to be misled by inaccurate answers.

Deepfake videos are another potential AI hazard. Media pundits warn of destabilizing potential »truth rotthe inability to know what is real and what is fake, as the amount of synthetic content multiplies. Holocaust scholars prepare to fight how historical sources and educational materials can be manipulated by deepfakes. It is of particular concern that deepfakes will be used to manipulate or undermine the testimony of survivors.

media education

Much of my research focuses on contemporary approaches to Holocaust education – for example, the need rethinking education while the number of Holocaust survivors who are still able to tell their story is rapidly diminishing. Addressing the current toxic information landscape presents another fundamental challenge that requires innovative solutions.

Holocaust survivor Margot Friedländer congratulates students who won an award in her name for their work against anti-Semitism.
Fabian Sommer/photo alliance via Getty Images

As a first step, educators can promote media literacy, the knowledge and skills needed to navigate and critique information online, and teach learners to approach sources with both healthy critique and an open mind. . Key Strategies for K-12 students include training to determine who is behind particular information and what evidence is provided and to investigate the creators of an unknown online source by seeing what trusted websites say about its information or authors.

media education also involves identifying the author, genre, purpose and point of view of a source, as well as reflecting on one’s own point of view. Finally, it is important to track claims, quotes and media return to source or original context.

Apply these skills to a Holocaust unit could focus on recognizing the implicit the stereotypes and online sources of misinformation often rely on these sources and pay attention to their identity and purpose. Lessons can also analyze how social media allow Holocaust denial and investigate common formats of online antisemitism, such as deepfake videosmemes and troll attacks.

Learning in the digital age

Holocaust educators can also embrace new technologies, rather than just lamenting their pitfalls. For example, long after survivors have died, people will be able to “converse” with them in museums and classrooms using specially recorded testimonials and natural language technology. These programs can match a visitor’s questions with relevant portions of pre-recorded interviews, responding almost as if they were speaking to the visitor in person.

There are also immersive virtual reality programs that combine recorded survivor testimonies with virtual reality tours of concentration camps, survivor hometowns, and other historical sites. One of these exhibits is “The return journeyat the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. Not only can virtual reality experiences transport viewers to such sites more realistically than traditional lessons, but they also allow learners to partly decide how to interact with the virtual environment. In interviews for my current research, viewers report that virtual reality experiences of the Holocaust make them feel emotionally engaged with a survivor.

The “family tree” of the company

People often get to know each other by exploring their family trees, examining heritages passed down from ancestors, and telling stories around the dinner table – helping people understand who they are.

The same principle applies to understanding society. study the past provides a roadmap of how past people and events have shaped today’s conditions, including anti-Semitism. It is important for young people to understand that the horrible history of anti-Semitism was not born with the Holocaust. Course that get students thinking about how indifference and collaboration fueled hate – or how ordinary people helped stop it – can inspire them to speak up and act in response to rising violence. anti-Semitism.

Holocaust education is not a neutral enterprise. As a survivor and scholar Elie Wiesel said when accepting his 1986 Nobel Peace Prize, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.

Alan Marcus is Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Connecticut.


The conversation was born out of deep concern about the diminishing quality of our public discourse and recognition of the vital role that academic experts could play in the public arena. Information has always been essential to democracy. It is a social good, like drinking water. But many now find it hard to trust the media and experts who have spent years researching a topic. Instead, they listen to those with the loudest voices. These uninformed views are amplified by social media that rewards those who spark outrage instead of thoughtful insight or discussion. The Conversation seeks to be part of the solution to this problem, to bring the voices of real experts to the table and make their knowledge available to everyone. The Conversation publishes nightly at 9 p.m. on FlaglerLive.


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