Choices Matter: Complicity and Action During the Holocaust

By Heidi Chudy, Program Assistant, Utah History Day

“A man wearing a star stood on the outside platform- the only place where Jews were allowed to ride.  He was eager to show his papers, but the soldiers slapped and hit him and took him away.  He looked back once, very calmly, as if expecting that someone would come to his defense.  But all the people in the streetcar looked straight ahead, each one for himself, as if nothing had happened.” [i]

What would you do in such a situation? Would you speak out for the passenger? Would you stay quiet in fear that you could be next? And if you were the man taken away? Would you feel anger towards your fellow passengers who did nothing? Would you come to realize that there was nothing they could do save look quietly ahead and pray the men in uniforms did not come towards them, demanding papers and explanations? How many of those passengers went home and spent hours quietly replaying the scene in their mind, both doubting and rationalizing their actions? What would have happened to the passengers had they spoken up?

Many of us are lucky that the painful choices and injustices inflicted on the “other” do not affect us on a day-to-day basis. But faced with them directly in such a deceptively simple manner, as in this streetcar incident, what would we do?

For the past five years, the Utah History Day has been proud to partner with Echoes & Reflections, a program dedicated to providing instruction on teaching the Holocaust in the classroom. This year, our chosen curriculum is “Choices Matter: Complicity and Action During the Holocaust.”  “An examination of the range of choices and decisions made by individuals, communities and nations during the Holocaust is a powerful lens through which to study this period of history.” It will be a memorable and thought provoking webinar.

November 11, 2020.  4 pm-9 pm via Zoom.

[1] Demetz, Hana. The House on Prague Street. St. Martin’s Press, 1980.