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Pope Declares Death Penalty Inadmissible in All Cases

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ROME — Pope Francis has declared the death penalty inadmissible in all cases because it is “an attack” on the “dignity of the person,” the Vatican announced on Thursday, in a definitive shift in Roman Catholic teaching that could put enormous pressure on lawmakers and politicians around the world.
Francis, who has spoken out against capital punishment before — including in 2015 in an address to Congress — added the change to the Catechism, the collection of beliefs for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
The revision says the church would work “with determination” for the abolition of capital punishment worldwide.
“I think this will be a big deal for the future of the death penalty in the world,” said John Thavis, a Vatican expert and author. “People who work with prisoners on death row will be thrilled, and I think this will become a banner social justice issue for the church,” he added.
Sergio D’Elia, the secretary of Hands Off Cain, an association that works to abolish capital puni…

Survey exposes American ignorance about Holocaust

Train tracks going through the Auschwitz-Birkenau gate house.
Two-thirds of Millennials interviewed, between the ages of 18 and 34, could not identify what Auschwitz is.

Forty-one percent of Americans don’t know what Auschwitz was, according to a comprehensive national survey of Holocaust awareness and knowledge among US adults.

The survey, to be released Thursday, which is Holocaust Remembrance Day, by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), found that there are critical gaps in Americans’ awareness of basic facts and in their detailed knowledge of the Holocaust, awareness and knowledge that deteriorate in the younger generations.

Two-thirds of Millennials interviewed, between the ages of 18 and 34, could not identify what Auschwitz is.

Claims Conference Board member Matthew Bronfman led a task force comprising Holocaust survivors as well as representatives from museums, educational institutions, and leading nonprofits in the field of Holocaust education, such as Yad Vashem, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Claims Conference, the Jewish Agency and George Washington University.

The study found that 11% of US adults and over one-fifth of Millennials (22%) hadn’t heard, or were not sure if they had heard, of the Holocaust.

While approximately six million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust, nearly one-third of all Americans (31%) and over four in every 10 Millennials (41%) believed that two million Jews or less were killed during the Holocaust.

Almost half of US adults (45%) and Millennials (49%) could not name one of the over 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos in Europe during the Holocaust.

Moreover, most Americans (80%) had not visited a Holocaust museum.

“The study found significant gaps in knowledge of the Holocaust,” Bronfman said. “We must take a look at these results and determine where and how best we can begin teaching the next generation these critical lessons which must resonate for decades to come.”

In addition, a significant majority, 70%, of American adults believed that, today, fewer people care about the Holocaust, and more than half of Americans, 58%, believed that “something like the Holocaust could happen again.”

Claims Conference president Julius Berman remarked: “On the occasion of Yom Hashoah [Holocaust Remembrance Day], it is vital to open a dialogue on the state of Holocaust awareness, so that the lessons learned inform the next generation.

We are alarmed that today’s generation lacks some of the basic knowledge about these atrocities.”

The Claims Conference, however, also highlighted some encouraging results of the survey. In particular, there are key findings underscoring the desire for Holocaust education.

More than nine out of every 10 respondents (93%) believed all students should learn about the Holocaust in school. Eight out of 10 respondents (80%) said it is important to keep teaching about the Holocaust so it does not happen again.

“This study underscores the importance of Holocaust education in our schools,” said Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference.

“There remain troubling gaps in Holocaust awareness while survivors are still with us; imagine when there are no longer survivors here to tell their stories. We must be committed to ensuring [that] the horrors of the Holocaust and the memory of those who suffered so greatly are remembered, told and taught by future generations.”

The Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Study was commissioned by the Claims Conference, and data were collected and analyzed by Schoen Consulting, with a representative sample of 1,350 American adults via landline, cellphone and online interviews.

Source: jpost.com, Tamara Zieve, April 12, 2018


Holocaust Is Fading From Memory, Survey Finds


Sachsenhausen concentration campFor seven decades, “never forget” has been a rallying cry of the Holocaust remembrance movement.

But a survey released Thursday, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, found that many adults lack basic knowledge of what happened — and this lack of knowledge is more pronounced among millennials, whom the survey defined as people ages 18 to 34.

Thirty-one percent of Americans, and 41 percent of millennials, believe that two million or fewer Jews were killed in the Holocaust; the actual number is around six million. Forty-one percent of Americans, and 66 percent of millennials, cannot say what Auschwitz was. Only 39 percent of Americans know that Hitler was democratically elected.

“As we get farther away from the actual events, 70-plus years now, it becomes less forefront of what people are talking about or thinking about or discussing or learning,” said Matthew Bronfman, a board member of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which commissioned the study. “If we wait another generation before you start trying to take remedial action, I think we’re really going to be behind the eight ball.”

Despite the gaps in the respondents’ knowledge, the study found an overwhelming consensus — 93 percent — that all students should learn about the Holocaust at school. And Holocaust denial remains very rare in the United States, with 96 percent of respondents saying they believe the genocide happened.

“The issue is not that people deny the Holocaust; the issue is just that it’s receding from memory,” said Greg Schneider, the executive vice president of the Claims Conference, which negotiates restitution for Holocaust victims and their heirs. “People may not know the details themselves, but they still think it’s important. That is very heartening.”

The survey, conducted by Schoen Consulting from Feb. 23-27, involved 1,350 American adults interviewed by phone or online, and has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points. Millennials were 31 percent of the sample, and the results for that group have a margin of error of plus or minus five percentage points.

The questions were developed by a committee that included officials from the Claims Conference, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Yad Vashem, as well as a Holocaust survivor and a polling expert from George Washington University. (In a strange footnote, the head of Schoen Consulting, Doug Schoen, is in the news this week for arranging for President Trump to give a speech during a 2015 event in Ukraine.)

Worldwide, the estimated number of living Holocaust survivors has fallen to 400,000, according to the Claims Conference, many of them in their 80s and 90s. And Holocaust remembrance advocates and educators, who agree that no book, film or traditional exhibition can compare to the voice of a survivor, dread the day when none are left to tell their stories.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington collects comment cards from many visitors before they leave, and they underscore that “no educational experience that anyone has coming through here has as much of an impact as hearing from a survivor directly,” said Kristine Donly, interim director of the Levine Institute for Holocaust Education at the museum, who sat on the board that developed the survey.

And so, across the country and around the world, museums and memorials are looking for ways to tell the witnesses’ stories once the witnesses are gone.

At the site of the Monument to Six Million Jewish Martyrs, the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation has been developing an interactive memorial plaza, scheduled to open in October. Visitors will use a new app that will, among other things, feature survivors’ recorded testimonies.

Entrance gate with lettering Arbeit macht frei Auschwitz Concentration Camp
In one part of the plaza, train tracks that carried prisoners to the Treblinka death camp will be embedded in the pavement. When visitors step onto the tracks, the app, using geocaching technology, will pull up videos of Philadelphia residents “who were on those very trains that led to Treblinka,” said Eszter Kutas, the remembrance foundation’s acting director.

And at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, near Chicago, visitors can speak with one of seven holograms of survivors — a project also tested at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. Drawing on recorded testimony, the holograms can answer questions in real time.

Visitors to the Illinois museum’s Take a Stand Center first watch a five-minute film in which a survivor introduces him- or herself. In one, Fritzie Fritzshall describes being taken to a ghetto at gunpoint during Passover, and from there to Auschwitz.

“I have so much more to tell you,” she says. “So please ask me questions.”

Then the hologram appears, “so real that our audience typically gasps when they see it,” said Susan L. Abrams, the museum’s chief executive.

“It really was as effective as hearing from a live survivor, and that surprised us,” Ms. Abrams said. “When you sit in this theater and the lights dim, everything else melts away. Our visitors truly believe that they are having this conversation with a survivor. I don’t think even we realized just how powerful it would be.”

Source: The New York Times, Maggie Astor, April 12, 2018


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