January 27th was International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day designated by the UN in 2005 to remember the estimated 6 million Jewish people, 200,000 Romani people, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, and 9,000 homosexual men killed during the Nazi regime. Recording and remembering history is an important measure to prevent future atrocities. Students in our Classroom Program improve Wikipedia articles about important historical topics all the time. Knowledge is a powerful tool in reducing prejudice and in creating a more just, safe world for all.
In Fall of 2016, Amos Bitzan conducted a Wikipedia assignment in his course, Antisemitism and Anti-Judaism, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. According to Wikipedia, antisemitism is hostility to, prejudice, or discrimination against Jews, whereas anti-Judaism occurs when someone is partially or completely opposed to Judaism. It’s sadly something that has been seen throughout history and still lingers today, making education one of the best ways to raise awareness of this issue and help bring the world closer to an end to antisemitism and anti-Judaism.
Students edited pages on topics such as the history of antisemitism. Students expanded the article by pulling from an essay by well-known historian William D. Rubenstein that covers the history of antisemitism in the English-speaking world. Rubenstein notes that antisemitism was lower in English-speaking countries because of three factors: religion, capitalism, and protection of civil liberties. Protestants, Rubenstein opines, were more likely to sympathize with Hebrews because they too felt that they were part of God’s chosen people and because their doctrine shared much with that of Judaism due to the Protestants favoring the Old Testament over the New. Capitalism was a factor due to Liverpool and London being economic trading hubs. Because England considered itself a country of high economic status, they were less likely to see Jewish moneylenders and merchants as a bad thing. Finally, the protection of civil liberties made it more likely that people would take a more liberal stance towards people from other backgrounds and religions. This did not eliminate antisemitism and anti-Judaism (another article edited by Bitzan’s students) entirely however, as the Hebrew people were continually at risk of facing prejudice, hostility, and discrimination.
Students also contributed to the page on propaganda in Nazi Germany, specifically in the section on propaganda posters. Propaganda is a common tool that people use to further an agenda and influence others, but posters are especially popular because their visual message can be easily and quickly imparted to the viewer. Depending on the type, posters can also be made relatively cheaply and placed in a wide variety of areas – including places that would have been more difficult for Nazi party leaders to otherwise reach.
Finally, another page that students contributed to was the article for Nikolaj Velimirović. Velimirović was a Bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church who was imprisoned in Dachau during World War II. He was accused of being antisemitic, due to several of his writings and public speeches containing antisemitism and hate speech that included claims that Jews were a threat to Christianity. Whether or not this was Velimirović’s true opinion is debatable, as his proponents argue that the antisemitic content was present because Velimirović was repeating content that was already present in Christian texts and that he wrote at least some of his work while under duress at Dachau.
Knowledge is a precious treasure that should be shared with others, so why not share your class’s knowledge with the world by using Wikipedia as part of an educational assignment? It will not only help teach your students about sourcing, technical writing, and research, but it will also show them how to work collaboratively with people from all over the world. If you are interested, visit teach.wikiedu.org or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can gain access to tools, online trainings, and printed materials.