Photo: Holocaust survivor Charlotte Adelman speaking to students at Peoria Accelerated High School. Photo by Tony Fusco
In 2018, The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany commissioned Schoen Consulting to conduct a comprehensive national study of Holocaust knowledge and awareness in the United States. The results from 1,350 interviews with American adults age18 and older were shocking: more than one-fifth of millennials in the United States – 22% – haven’t heard of, or aren’t sure if they’ve heard of, the Holocaust, and 41% believe two million Jews or fewer were killed, a staggering underestimation of the six million Jews killed in World War II by Nazi Germany and its accomplices. `
The volunteers at the Phoenix Holocaust Association work hard to change these gaps in Holocaust awareness.
“As an organization, the Phoenix Holocaust Association feels that the time is now to get as much of this education and teaching before students as possible while there are still survivors alive,” says Janice Friebaum, vice president of the PHA. “There have been studies that show that some of the most powerful messages of learning for students is with live testimony.”
The PHA Speakers Bureau consists of survivors, their children, and their grandchildren, who speak to schools, faith-based organizations, nonprofit organizations, businesses, civic groups, and even prison groups.
PHA holds annual training for speakers on everything from the fundamentals of public speaking to the particulars of how to go out and tell your own story as the child or grandchild of a Holocaust survivor.
“One of the things we covered in training is that the story of the children and grandchildren of survivors is not unimportant,” says Janice. “It actually has a strong educational value, and particularly with students, young people who either are immigrants themselves or their parents were immigrants, the story of the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors resonates with them quite a lot.”
She continues, “It tends to have a very uplifting inspirational message about how coming out of these families that experience so much trauma and loss and adversity can be not only overcome but used as a source of inspiration to achieve more, and even have a happy life.”
Although their greatest focus is on the Speakers Bureau and educational events, the PHA also does remembrance events and tikkun olam projects, including the upcoming “Holocaust by Bullets” (For more information on “Holocaust by Bullets” see the article on page ????).
The PHA also actively advocates that the Holocaust and genocide education are made mandatory in Arizona public schools.
“We know that the Holocaust is probably the most well studied of all of the modern-day genocides, and because of that it can become such a useful tool to teach people about genocide and intolerance and what happens when hate and bigotry go unchecked,” says Janice.
She continues, “It’s a very powerful tool for teaching and if we don’t use those lessons with our students, what good was all of that documentation and all of that testimony if it doesn’t move forward to instruct and inspire and teach?”
For more information on the Phoenix Holocaust Association, visit phxha.com.