In the last installment of Professionalizing History, I discussed the war on American history – the nationalistic, patriotic, oftentimes conservative-based ideology that prefers to ignore the dark side of history. We talked about Howard Zinn, a name I’ll oftentimes refer to in later installments, and what he did to contribute to this so-called war against
Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Prince, Nancy Reagan. 2016 has been a rather devastating year for deaths. But this one tops the list for me. Elie Wiesel, full name Eliezer Wiesel, was born on September 30th, 1928. A Romanian-born Jewish writer who lived a full life – through the highest highs and lowest lows – Wiesel was an outstanding political activist who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for speaking out against the repression and violence stemming from racism. Wiesel was the recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal in 1985, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and countless other awards. And, as most people know of him, Wiesel was a Holocaust survivor.
Let me introduce you to The Third Wave, a social experiment that took place in a Californian high school during April of 1967. High school history teacher Ron Jones found it difficult to answer the question “How did the Germans not realize what the Nazis were doing during the Second World War?” His students, your typical 15-year-old sophomores within a contemporary world history class, could not grasp the idea that the Germans claimed ignorance when it came to the extermination of the Jewish people within the Holocaust. Lost for words, Mr. Jones decided to demonstrate it to his students.
Imagine a world where World War II could have ended years beforehand. A world where millions of men, women, and children weren’t slaughtered horrendously in genocide. A world where Nazi Germany never really became a global, or even continental, threat. Alternative history is very interesting, perhaps one of the most interesting things to study in the recordings of our world’s past.