Meanwhile, we should all of us perhaps take care when we speak of the problem of evil. For there is more than one sort of banality. There is the notorious banality of which Arendt spoke —the unsettling, normal, neighborly, everyday evil in humans. But there is another banality: the banality of overuse—the flattening, desensitizing effect of seeing or saying or thinking the same thing too many times until we have numbed our audience and rendered them immune to the evil we are describing. And that is the banality— or “banalization”—that we face today.
This is Tony Judt (a very controversial scholar, if you don’t already know) on “The ‘Problem of Evil’ in Postwar Europe” in The New York Review of Books.” Provocative and worthwhile reading.
A good idea, I think.
From the Times:
Two sixth-formers from every school in England are to visit Auschwitz to learn about the Holocaust, under a government-funded initiative to help to ensure that the lessons of the Nazi genocide live on with a new generation.
Jim Knight, the Schools Minister, wants the teenagers who take part to educate their classmates and communities in turn by giving them their own accounts of the death camp in Poland where more than one million Jews, Roma, Sinti, gay, disabled and black people were put to death.
The Government will fund the greater majority of the cost of each student’s trip. While their school must find £100, the Education Department will find the remaining £200 per trip over the next three years….
Critics have suggested that the visits might act as a smokescreen to disguise present-day atrocities. But Mr Knight is determined that this will not happen. “We want them to see it, not as an isolated period of history, but as something real and something that can happen again and again if we let it, like it has happened since then in the Balkans, in Cambodia and in Rwanda,” he said.
This is why today he will confirm that the scheme, which has been piloted since 2006, will now be on a permanent footing receiving £1.5 million of government funding a year until 2011, with a promise of further funding in the future…
Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany on January 30th, 1933, 75 years ago this week. This grim anniversary was acknowledged in Germany in a variety of ways. I’ve noted before here that I’m the daughter of German Holocaust survivors. I lived and schooled in Germany as a child, am fluent in German, and go often to visit family and friends. You see, the broad story of Jews and the Holocaust is not as one-dimensional as may appear. There are numerous stories; my family’s is one.
But this post isn’t about my family. It is about Germans and their efforts to inform and educate their youth about their dreadful history. This is something I’ve been interested in for decades. I have some articles in German and friends have told me that sometimes it did seem that it was overdone. (I sometimes wonder if young Germans view the lessons and speeches on this topic the way some young Americans may view slavery and the civil rights era — events long ago that haven’t as much to do with them as the adults think).
Today I came across an interesting new resource in this Guardian piece, “German Children Taught Graphic Truth About Nazis.” Evidently the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam has published a graphic novel, A Family Secret with a second one to come (already evidently available in German and Dutch), The Search. Some of the images are available here.
I know how hard it is to teach history to children. Right now I’m exploring forced immigration with my fourth graders, the horrific history of slavery in America. This year’s class is eager and curious, some are already well-prepared. Other years I have had to tread more cautiously with students shocked and prone to nightmares with all this new information. And so because of my family history and my observations of children learning history I’m always curious how Germany in particular handles this particular part of their history with young people. These books seem like an interesting direction to try.