Jeffrey Gottesman: Learning from the Germans |

Jeffrey Gottesman: Learning from the Germans

I’m a former professor of education, parent of a Nevada Union High School child of color who has experienced racism, and a Jew with family and friends who were Holocaust survivors, writing about the attempt by a group to oppose “critical race theory” in our schools. Critical race theory is simply the concept that racism is historically and institutionally baked into the system.

We could learn from the German experience of teaching and talking about the Holocaust after World War II. After the war, most Germans were reluctant to talk about the Holocaust, a dark secret filled with shame, guilt and division between generations and political perspectives.

In the 1980s, Germans began openly discussing the Holocaust. Many Germans feared that this discourse would cause divisions and would result in children feeling shame about their country, but the openness healed divisions instead, and children grew up to be proud of their courageous national acts of truth-telling.

Germany has become a paragon among nations for tolerance. Courageously teaching the truth about the horrors of slavery, Jim Crow, Native American genocide and their lingering legacies will inspire our children too.

Jeffrey Gottesman

Peace and Justice Center of Nevada County

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