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Holocaust Assembly Warns of Propaganda

Enveloped in silence, Pingry's annual Holocaust Assembly opened with music teacher Jay Winston singing "Ani Ma'amin" ("I Believe"), a song representing Jewish hope, and a video introduced the assembly's theme: dangers of propaganda.

In the video, Holocaust survivor Bob Behr, who encountered Nazi propaganda as a teenager in Berlin, recalls standing on a sidewalk while a group of Hitler youth marched by, wearing brown uniforms, brown belts, and daggers, accompanied by a pipe and drum corps and two flags. "I wished with all my heart that I could march with them. I'm not proud of this story," he says. "I wanted the uniform, the power, the ability to belong. That is very powerful propaganda, and very dangerous."

For the remainder of the program, Middle and Upper School students showed numerous photos depicting how the Nazi government used propaganda, playing on negative stereotypes and fostering a climate of hatred, indifference, fear, and prejudice—Jews and other groups considered unacceptable were falsely labeled as alien, and parasites responsible for Germany's cultural, political, and economic difficulties. Hitler crafted his image, portraying himself as a man of the people, and the government communicated its message through radio, newspapers, film, theatre, rallies, flags, banners, signs, posters, music, buttons, uniforms, and books.

"Propaganda is successful when it responds to what is happening at the time and what people want or feel they need," the students said. "It is dangerous when it makes discrimination and violence an acceptable response . . . Critical thinking about propaganda and understanding propaganda's intent are crucial responsibilities of citizenship in today's world." Students were prompted to consider their role in stopping negative propaganda.

The presentation concluded with a recitation of the Kaddish, interspersed with names of Concentration Camps, and lighting of memorial candles.

Contact: Greg Waxberg '96, Communications Writer