Saturday, February 12, 2022

History Lessons

All the news this week (nearly forgotten already--topics move so fast--but we had a funeral and other stuff going on, too) about book banning and book burning and white people's discomfort and Whoopie Goldberg and parents getting mad about teachers using historical facts has me processing more crap from my teens.

Looking back, I find my early lessons on the Holocaust rather horrifying. And not in the way that they should be.

Anne Frank's diary being, for unspecified reasons, a banned book at my "school", I read The Hiding Place about a dozen times and almost daily imagined hiding Jews behind my afterthought of a closet which was too short for dresses. (Ok, if I'm honest, I still imagine it. That closet had a walled-off secret stairway entrance from the basement.)

I read numerous religious WWII paperback adventures about Communists, torture, boxcars, smugglers, miracles, and daring escapes when I was just a kid. Corrie ten Boom's was the only one about the plight of the Jews, and it centered...

...a Gentile Christian! Who survived the concentration camp to travel the globe telling people to forgive their abusers in the name of Jesus.

Corrie, at least the version created by Guideposts writers John & Elizabeth Sherrill, was my hero. I wanted to be strong like her, courageous, daring, smart, and famous, and sabotage a few Nazi radios in the process. I imagined visiting Haarlem just to tour her home and watch shop, the Beje, while I pondered whether God let Jesus-rejecting Jews into heaven.

Our school books gave Corrie her own history unit (Wisdom Booklet #35). They basically reworded The Hiding Place, with less emphasis on Jews and extra helpings of forgiveness for wicked deeds. You'd think it would be difficult to write a page about concentration camps without mentioning Jews, but IBLP managed it. It wasn't that they were on the side of the Nazis, just that they could adapt the story, just as they did the Jewish scriptures, to fit Bill Gothard's agenda by telling victims of violence that God willed their suffering. 

And speaking of agendas, every anti-abortion speech I ever heard included Holocaust references, which I found so offensively boilerplate I determined to write my entire Right-to-Life speech without one.


During my year in the Philippines, my dearest friend was a German woman. Her Wycliffe missionary peers warned me, unbidden, never to bring up the Holocaust as she didn't believe it had happened. Huh? I knew a lot of interesting people with a lot of unusual hang-ups, but this was a new one for me!

Dietlinde had created a dictionary and translated the New Testament for the Muslim Yakan people group in the southern islands. I helped her assemble evergreen boughs into a Christmas "tree" and decorate it with German ornaments and she taught me to drink coconut water and showed me a night-blooming orchid and we had lovely tea parties, but I obediently tiptoed around the Holocaust question.

I encountered Elie Wiesel in a college English assignment, and Shalom Auslander was another Jewish voice who gave me a glimmer of what it means to grow up in the shadow of massive generational trauma.

I no longer think forgiveness is going to cut it.

Anyway... these are excerpts from the homeschool curriculum my parents chose. Maybe you used it, too.

Excuse me now while I ask my kids what they've learned about anti-Semitism, past and, painfully, present.