January 25, 2024
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Launches Holocaust Education Oral History Speaker Series
EL CERRITO—In anticipation of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and the California Department of Education launched an oral history speaker series for Holocaust survivors and their family members to share their personal perspectives with students. The series kicked off today at El Cerrito High School in the West Contra Costa Unified School District.
The oral history event provided more than 100 students with the opportunity to hear testimony from local Holocaust survivor Lisa Brinner. Student leaders representing the Jewish Student Union, the Muslim Student Association, and the Amnesty International Club at El Cerrito High School welcomed Ms. Brinner in person, and students from five other high schools in the West Contra Costa Unified School District were able to ask questions in order to understand Ms. Brinner’s experience.
“There is nothing more powerful than learning history directly from those who have lived it. We can learn so much about how to create a better, more peaceful future by learning directly from our elders what they had to experience,” Thurmond said. “Thank you, Ms. Brinner, for sharing your story and providing us an opportunity to learn, reflect, and commit to preventing atrocities such as the Holocaust from ever happening again.”
Thurmond is the co-chair of the Governor’s Council on Holocaust and Genocide Education. A nationwide survey released in 2020 showed a lack of “Holocaust knowledge” among adults under 40; more than one in 10 respondents did not recall ever having heard the word "Holocaust." Sixty-three percent of Millennials and Generation Z surveyed did not know that six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, and over half who did know thought the death toll was fewer than two million people. More than 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos were established during World War II, but nearly half of U.S. respondents failed to name a single one. Recent surveys indicate that one in five young Americans think the Holocaust is a myth.
This oral history event is the beginning of a series of survivor testimonies that Thurmond will host in districts across California. Educators who are interested in bringing these historic testimonies to their students should contact email@example.com.
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Tony Thurmond —
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100