Today's revelations that a small number of Auckland Grammar school pupils engaged in sickening pranks by being photographed doing inappropriate things with Nazi paraphenalia at Auckland's War Memorial Museum should raise the question - have our younger generation forgotten already?
The 'pranksters' (if that label can be attached to them) were photographed kissing a swastika, making a Nazi salute and kneeling before another Nazi flag at the museum. What made matters worse was that one of the students then published the photos on Facebook for all the world to see.
Coming only weeks after another incident involving some Lincoln University students who dressed as Nazi guards and Jewish concentration camp prisoners at an Oktoberfest themed party, it begs the question that I have raised above. And for such incidents to happen in a small country like New Zealand in relatively quick succession will raise even more eyebrows internationally.
I agree with statements that have been made today by New Zealand Jewish Council President Stephen Goodman that the Nazi Holocaust should be taught as part of the school history and social studies curriculum here. This only makes sense as it would instil into students a greater awareness of what the Holocaust was and as to why genocide should be prevented at all costs. Furthermore, Goodman made the salient point that genocide is still being perpetrated in global conflict zones including Darfur and was also engaged in during the 1990s in both Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzegovina on a massive scale.
What should happen to the students who undertook this act?
Well, I am hoping that they will follow Lincoln University's lead in this by requiring that the offending students (at their own cost) visit the Holocaust Museum in Wellington, write a decent sized essay on the topic and perhaps even be suspended for the rest of the term and forfeit their right to sit NCEA or any other qualification-based exams - in other words, they should be forced to repeat a year. As I do realise that there are some Holocaust survivors who reside here, perhaps the students might like to talk with these people face-to-face about the horrors they witnessed and as to how these and other ill thought out actions can re-open old wounds for them.
Despite this, we must remember that more young New Zealanders are now taking part in Anzac Day services and are remembering (as I do) the fact that our soldiers played a small but not insignificant role in defeating Nazism and Fascism during World War 2.
It only stands to reason, though, that we should remember all victims of the Holocaust and the Nazi terror that swept Europe - not only Jews, but people from other ethnic minority groups, disabled people, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, socialists/communists and critics from other political backgrounds, Jehovah's Witnesses, and all those others who were deemed as 'unfit' to reside in the dark recesses of the Nazi empire.
I am hopeful that once the appropriate punishment has been administered to these 'pranksters' that they will look back upon this episode as a shameful one.
We only hope that for the victims of the Holocaust and Nazi terror, both dead and alive, that this is the case. Otherwise, if we do not teach the current and next generation of young people about these crimes, then more 'pranksters' will only pop up to besmirch the memory of those who innocently suffered so long ago.
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