"Never forget” is a phrase often uttered after horrific tragedies, but at the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle, there’s a fear the world is forgetting after recent comments from a prominent White House staffer.
“You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” the White House press secretary said on Tuesday when he compared Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Adolf Hitler, and apologized later: “I got into a topic I shouldn’t have, and I screwed up. I hope people understand we all make mistakes.”
Though Sean Spicer apologized soon after his eyebrow-raising remarks, some are wondering if the mistake is a sign of a larger societal symptom: Ignorance about the Holocaust.
“Best case scenario: Spicer has a tenuous grasp of history. And worst case: he’s sort of feeding into denial, which I think is a rising issue now. As time moves on and the survivors pass, we're getting further and further from the history,” Holocaust Center for Humanity executive director Dee Simon said.
The Center has a canister of Zyklon B from Auschwitz. Nazis used the cyanide-based pesticide to kill about one million people in extermination camp gas chambers, according to Simon.
Since the comments on Tuesday, museum goers are giving the canister some added attention.
“It was a highly poisonous insecticide used to kill over a million Jews and other victims,” Judyth Weaver, of Seattle, said, reading the exhibition card.
She brought her three grandchildren to see the Curious George exhibit at the museum.
“I think the younger generation is losing touch with a lot of things, the Holocaust being one of them,” Weaver said.
Her grandchild Celia, 10, says many of her friends do not know about the Holocaust: “but since I am half Jewish, then they learned about some of it. But some people just don't really care about it or don't want to learn more about it.”
More than 40 states, including Washington, do not legally require school districts teach students about the Holocaust, though some may recommend it.
“They get Hitler confused with Stalin -- it’s shocking,” Simon said of some high school and college students’ knowledge of the Holocaust.
Holocaust Remembrance Day is Monday, April 24. On Sunday, April 23, the Holocaust Center for Humanity is having two survivors talk about their experiences in an effort to keep their stories alive.