Shawn Harding
Founder of The Holocaust Blueprint

Perspectives of a Young Man on the Holocaust

The Holocaust is a topic where I often hear the phrase, “I do not think I could handle studying, reading about, or seeing photographs of the Holocaust.” I want to preface this article with an important note – I am 25 years old and was born in the American education system. I am still very young, but I have dedicated the rest of my life to Holocaust research and to helping others find out about their families in the Holocaust, too.

The Holocaust remained a rather obscure topic in my venture through the education system, and I often heard of Auschwitz but with a simplistic explanation that barely scratched the surface of the cruelty of the Nazi regime. In college, I began to take an interest in the Nazi regime, and I later became familiarized with the Holocaust in a much deeper way. Little did I know the fate of my own family – little did I know what this pivotal moment in my life would mean for the next 4 years of my young and still ignorant life.

I still remember reading Anne Frank’s diary in middle school, but the impact it had on me was minimal, as I did not really understand what it meant. I often saw the other kids push aside the content as they too could not handle the reality that was being portrayed. It seemed so much easier to run away from it than to confront it, and I only wish I had been encouraged to dig deeper into the diary in the classroom. The presentation was like any other book – a required reading that we had to get through. The story of Anne was always present in my heart, but it never took full meaning until much later in my education.

I had learned about the impact of the Holocaust at my own cognition – a choice that I had made against the behest of many people that could not broach the topic. I learned about Hitler and the Nazi regime function. I studied the leaders extensively as I tried to understand how the regime toppled the Weimar Republic and came to power. A commonality kept coming up – one that I could not ignore. Innocent lives were being lost in the name of Nazism. Infuriated, I continued to read about the actions of the regime against their own people – against the innocent people of Europe. I started to read about Buchenwald and Ravensbrück, and anger filled my heart in place of the confusion I had once felt. I realized the brutality of the Nazi regime, and here I was, a young man that had uncovered a world of immense pain and destruction. I felt an overwhelming call to continue researching, and from there, I ordered a set of Holocaust diaries. Reading the words of adults and children, I felt an indescribable connection with the children of the Holocaust. I felt as though it was part of my life’s meaning to read their words and to help ensure they were never forgotten. More than just their names, but the words they wrote. The jobs they yearned to master. The aspirations for marriage they held, and the strength they maintained despite their new world’s cruel captors. Through their struggles in life, I began to understand the true meaning of life – to help others in their endeavors to become the best them that they could be. I certainly could not help the children who died and never had the opportunity to see their dreams come true, but I could help others see their dreams come true in their honor.

My new understanding of life came with the inundation of Holocaust books as I scoured the internet to begin a collection. It meant much more than just a collection, but instead, it gave me the chance to gain an understanding of a world that remains relatively unspoken by many across the world. The topic is dark and difficult in nature, but even having a basic understanding of the Holocaust would help realize the phrase “never again.” It is in this reality that I often find myself speaking about the Holocaust to people I come into contact with, and I do what I can to help others in the name of the victims.

Holocaust studies became a part of me beyond my heritage. Being a voice for the voiceless brought a certain joy to my heart. The victims can not be brought back, but we can certainly keep their memory alive by never forgetting their names, aspirations, and loves in life. I felt there was no better way to contribute to society than to learn about the millions of innocent victims as much as I can and help iterate their stories to everyone I meet. Before me was a world that once was obscure in its mention, and in its cruelty everyone I knew avoided it as to not bring pain to themselves.

Holocaust education serves as a reminder of the past, and this reminder remains avoided by humanity. One of the darkest times in history – the Holocaust saw the deaths of men, women, babies, children, and the elderly with no regard for their cries and pleas. Once more we see anti-Semitic acts throughout the world, and in these acts, ignorance serves as its foundation. Holocaust education is important so that we may never forget, but also so that we may prevent future acts from occurring regardless of to whom. It is only through us that the future can be built, and that Holocaust education can continue to spread. It is only through us that the phrase “never again” can truly be realized.

About the Author
Shawn Harding is the founder of The Holocaust Blueprint. Shawn works to create educational materials for free for users across the world to visualize the Holocaust and obtain information in relation to it.
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