So I’m reading the textbook for my world civ class, and the chapter is entitled: Interwar Years, World War II, and the Cold War. I’m skeptical at best when I start this out. Other things in the past have given me a huge distrust of this textbook, but I’m trying to be a more efficient/responsible student this semester, so I decide to start in on the chapter tonight.
But as I’m reading about Mussolini’s rise to power in Italy, I’m thinking about this chapter and what it claims to have inside. In fifty pages alone, how could it possibly get through all of that information? Something was going to be left out.
I was interested in the chapter, though (part of the reason I decided to start tackling it tonight instead of cramming it in on Monday), partly because I wanted to see if they would even mention António Salazar, and partly because I’ve been working pretty intensely on my story “Tante, Bailarín.” Two of the characters in this story immigrate to the US during the late 30’s/early 40’s to escape European dictatorships, one of them being a German Jew. In sharpening their back stories, I’ve read several articles and websites over the past couple of months about Francisco Franco, Hitler, Nazi Germany, and the Holocaust. Today I was reading about the Night of Broken Glass and through a list of political parties and cultural traditions persecuted by Franco.
In the three paragraphs devoted to dictators in the Iberian Peninsula, Salazar receives two sentences: “In Portugal an economics professor, Antonio de Oliveira Salazar (1889-1970), was appointed in the early 1930s as prime minister by a military junta seeking political and economic stability. Salazar made himself dictator and ruled until his death in 1970.”
I have two major problems with that epitaph. One, there are no specific dates! This is a history textbook, for crying out loud, and you don’t have a single specific date about the reign of a terrible dictator? It doesn’t even mention that the dictatorship continued until 1974 with the Carnation Revolution. Two, although I admit that the other European dictators might warrant more space in this chapter than Salazar (from a global perspective), Salazar deserves more than two sentences! In the sixties, my aunt Maria was imprisoned for trying to buy food for her family because of the Salazar dictatorship. The crimes against humanity under Salazar became the origin of Amnesty International. Maybe it’s a little personal, but still–these are major events globally that are glossed in two sentences.
But that’s not the worst of the glossed subjects. You’d expect in the chapter about WWII that there would be a large portion of the text dedicated to the Holocaust. I’d think at least five pages. Wrong.
What might possibly be the greatest and most horrific ethnic cleansing pogrom in the entire history of the world is reduced to:
-Three sentences in one paragraph on page 858
-One paragraph on page 877
-One “Eyewitness Account”, a compilation of information about Kiev that fills a box on part of page 878
-One photograph, “Nazi Victims at Bergen-Belsen,” on page 879
Let me say that again, in case it wasn’t clear the first time.
Is it just me, or is that an absurdly disproportional amount of information? The book chooses to focus on broad military strategies and Hitler as a military leader, but almost ignores the entire Holocaust! There is something profoundly wrong with this textbook.
Nine pages are devoted to the Cold War, which, though important in understanding American and international history, in my opinion, does not warrant over eight times the coverage of the Holocaust. The writers of this book spent one and a half paragraphs lightly glossing the Holocaust. The full paragraph reads:
The camps became giant slaughterhouses after Hitler decided to exterminate the Jews, whom he regarded, along with homosexuals and Gypsies, as the lowest species of humanity. Hitler’s “Final Solution” was entrusted to the elite SS, which carried out its grisly duties with fanaticism and efficiency. The horrors the Nazis perpetrated were so shocking to the human imagination that even today they can scarcely be believed. In 1941, in Auschwitz, Poland, one of many death camps, the Nazis killed an average of 12,000 people a day. All told, the Nazis murdered 6 million Jews, about 75 percent of the European Jewish population, in the greatest act of genocide in history. It is now referred to as the Holocaust.
Read that again, please. “Grisly duties” and “so shocking” that they can “scarcely be believed.” That is the way this textbook wraps up one of the worst things to have ever happened to humanity. Apart from being horribly written and filled with run-on sentences, the paragraph is insulting. As a human, I am severely offended by this flippant treatment of the Holocaust. I can only imagine if I were Jewish how I would feel if I were using this book in class.
I guess my point is this: This textbook glosses over one of the most important events in human history. If we start treating the Holocaust this lightly in the United States, it might not be long before we’re all agreeing with this guy: