In an Arab regional culture where Holocaust denial is the norm, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is introducing an educational unit on the Holocaust into their schools. Working with a Yad Vashem educational group, the Emiratis are developing curriculum for children in elementary school through high school.
Not only has the Holocaust been strikingly absent from UAE children’s education on WW II, but Israel itself was blacked out from maps and globes. With this bold move by the UAE to fully include the Holocaust in its children’s education, the Gulf State nation is poised to become a regional peacemaker.
On the heels of the 2020 Abraham Accords, the UAE, in 2021, opened the region’s first Holocaust memorial exhibit in Dubai. Earlier this month, 91-year-old Eve Kugler, a German-born Holocaust survivor who lives now in the UK, was brought to the UAE to speak as part of an observation of the anniversary of Kristallnacht (the event that sparked the Holocaust). Six other Holocaust survivors have also come to the UAE to speak on the horrors of what they and their families endured at the hands of the Nazis.
“Holocaust denial in the Arab-Muslim world has been a historic challenge for us… but these important developments are indicative of a change…,” said Robert Rosette, a senior historian with Yad Vashem.
“Memorializing the victims of the Holocaust is crucial. In the Arab world, the older generation operated in an environment where speaking about the Holocaust was tantamount to betraying Arabs and Palestinians,” said Ali Al Nuaimi, one of the UAE’s educational leaders.
“Public figures failed to speak the truth because a political agenda hijacked their narrative, yet a tragedy on the scale of the Holocaust targets not only Jews, but humanity as a whole. Therefore, public figures and scholars should be encouraged to discuss the Holocaust and protect common human values while leaving political differences aside,” Al Nuaimi added.
Ahmed Al Mansouri, an Emirati, has been collecting historical pieces of the regional history of the Jewish people in the Middle East for almost a decade, and he made the Holocaust memorial exhibit in Dubai a reality. He said that some people leave negative comments in the guest book, but that just spurs him on in his work.
“In the region, there is big denial [of the Holocaust] and the Holocaust is seen as something that has been politicized,” said Mansouri.
“I believed the Holocaust would never happen again, but when I saw the recent rise in antisemitism, I knew I was wrong. Even in the most civilized countries, humans are humans, and this horrific event in human history can be repeated. The Holocaust was the biggest crime against humanity and this message is for all of humanity.”