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Arts & Culture

Educators seek to relate Holocaust lessons to today's students

Andrew Beiter

Messages of hate have plagued society for many centuries, but they’ve never spread more rapidly than in today’s Internet society.The Holocaust Resource Center of Buffalo believes there are some valuable lessons that can be learned from tragedies in earlier eras. The center hosted a day-long conference  Monday on how stereotypes were used by the Nazi regime. Education Director Andrew Beiter said looking at the individual is the best way to learn.

“Our hope is that education, especially Holocaust and human rights education, provides a firewall in which humanity can be at its best," said Beiter. "By having those survivors have that one on one time with the teachers, is something that unfortunately we’re only going to be able to do for a few more years. So we wanted to really maximize that opportunity.”

More than 100 teachers gathered to explore the differences and similarities of stereotypes throughout history. With the advent of social media, Beiter said exposure to hateful messages has become even more prominent today.

“The messages of hate can travel at an incredible speed and we are seeing that in the world all over [and] in the United States as well," said Beiter. "It’s our hope that with conferences like today, we can only hope to push back and create a firewall to mitigate those hateful messages.”

Teachers often look to tie history to current events to make it more relatable to students. He cites marking people of the Islamic faith as terrorists as a modern day example. Beiter stressed understanding why someone stereotypes is needed in order to fight it.

“People stereotype when they’re threatened. They stereotype when their self-esteem is threatened or when their economies are threatened," said Beiter. "These are historical lessons that the Holocaust really demonstrates and hopefully we can reach more teachers in the time that we have while our survivors are still alive.”

Beiter said the conference will allow teachers to reach thousands of students using first-hand information. Both sides say there are not many years left for victims to share their experiences. 

Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.