Holocaust survivor calls for education, understanding
By ERIN PIROUTEK
Yaffa Eliach emphasized the role of education in preventing a recurrence of the horrors of the Holocaust during her lecture Monday entitled "Crossing the Bridge between the 20th and 21st Century." Eliach, a Holocaust survivor, also focused on the need for accurate documentation of the humanity — the rich and varied lives — destroyed by the Holocaust.
"If it happened in the past, it can happen in the future," said Eliach, a professor of history and literature at Brooklyn College.
"The focus should not be on hate ... the focus should be to document the Holocaust from a humanistic point of view," said Eliach.
"If you only examine the official documents of the Holocaust ... It includes nothing about the human elements," she said.
Eliach expressed concern about Holocaust education in the United States.
"When I was a student, it was never mentioned in my classes whatsoever," said Eliach, who added that she had outstanding professors.
"I am very concerned about it because many of the ideas did cross the Atlantic to the United States," said Eliach. "My concern was since we're a country of immigrants ... what will be our relation to each other in time of trouble?" Eliach said greater understanding between ethnic groups is important.
"[The Holocaust] did not happen in a primitive place, it happened in the heart of a civilized society," she said.
She expressed concern about recent division based on religion and culture. "We are moving now in a direction away from the melting pot," said Eliach.
"You would be surprised by the hate that exists," she said, citing the Internet, her experience in elementary classrooms in New York City and the recent shooting at a Jewish community center in California.
Eliach recently visited Kosovo, which she considers an example of how education failed. It did not compare to the Holocaust, she said, but we did not learn the lessons from the Holocaust to prevent it.
"We are all the children of God. We are all human beings. We must take care of each other," said Eliach.
Eliach also discussed the quality of Holocaust research and documentation. She emphasized the need for research to be free from any outside political pressure, citing the possible conflict between political importance and historical accuracy.
Additionally, Eliach has concerns about the prejudices of individual researchers and professors who have personal experiences with the Holocaust.
"The older they were, the more they were connected to the past on an emotional level. They were not faithful to the events as they were," said Eliach. "You must research negative elements as well Ñ not for hate ... in order to prevent hate."
Eliach has written extensively about the Holocaust, including the books "There Once Was a World: a 900-year Chronicle of the Shtetl of Eishyshok" and "Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust."
Eliach's lecture was sponsored by the Notre Dame Holocaust Project and the Erasmus Institute. She will deliver a second lecture Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the Center for Continuing Education entitled "Restoring a Vanished Past: There Once Was a World."
All News Stories for Tuesday, October 5, 1999