By Keira Gilmore ('24)
There are many social studies electives here at South Brunswick High School, one of which is Holocaust and Genocide. This course is offered to juniors and seniors and gives interested students a more in-depth understanding of the roots of past genocides and mass violence.
Holocaust and Genocide is a full-year course and there are no pre-requisites for the class. Some of the course highlights for Holocaust and Genocide are human behavior, the Armenian Genocide, The Holocaust, the Cambodian Genocide, the Rwandan Genocide, the Bosnian Genocide, the Darfur Genocide the Moden Genocide, International Law & Justice, and a look at the ways human nature, society, politics, and historical events can create the circumstances for genocide to occur.
Usually, the first semester is focused on the roots of genocide and the Holocaust, and the second semester is more focused on some of history’s most well-known genocides. There are two teachers for Holocaust and Genocide, Mr. Scott Wissoki and Mr. Zachary Nieman.
Mr. Nieman said, “Mass violence can occur in any society, including our own, and it is important to understand the forces that lead to it. For many, this might seem like a niche interest, but if we look closely, it’s probably more relevant than many people might think. It’s easy to think of the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, or even the Rwandan genocide, like ancient history. While it’s true that these events are in the past, the forces that led to them are still very much with us, and it is important for us to recognize them and keep them in check.”
Also according to Mr. Nieman, students should know, “ while it’s an elective, it is a serious academic class and that engagement participation is expected from each student. The class only works when everyone in the room brings their best in order to think critically and consider many different, complex perspectives.”
Senior and current Holocaust and Genocide student Ava Byzewski agreed.
“It's super interesting and important information,” said Byzewski, “I love learning about history and it’s good to know the warning signs behind certain events and how to prevent them from happening again.”
Regarding the curriculum, Byzewski said, “So far in marking period one and two we covered the Armenian Genocide and we are in the middle of the Holocaust. We basically go through all the known genocides. It just kind of goes in order of the genocides.” Knowing the backstory of such devastating events is super important, even if you don’t want to pursue a future in history.
Some may argue that learning about such graphic content is not appropriate for high schools, but Byzewski said, “Although New Jersey is a state that requires Holocaust education, I feel like it’s important for high school students to get an in-depth learning and understanding of what exactly happened and what events led up to it.”
Byzewski also said, “I really enjoy the course and I would recommend this course to others because it’s always good to have this information, and everyone should know about these things and people should know the warning signs and why they are such devastating events.”
Jordan Rosenberg, a senior and a current Holocaust and Genocide student, agreed with this, saying, “The class had many creative ways of learning, like Socratic seminars, projects, and class discussions which I enjoy rather than the usual just taking notes.”
Holocaust and Genocide is a very important and interesting course that doesn’t get very much attraction. The things you learn about will help you in the future, so whether or not someone has an interest in doing a historical career, this is definitely a class everyone should consider taking.