Winning student essays in JCOB’s Holocaust Memorial Day contest

By on April 25, 2023

Tyrrell County Schools submitted 4 essays, all from home-schooled students in grades 6-8.
Dare County Middle Schools had 3 students submit essays, all from First Flight Middle School.
Dare County High Schools had 7 students submit essays, all coming from Steve Hanf's Journalism class at First Flight High School.
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For about a dozen years, the Jewish Community of the Outer Banks (JCOB) has been sponsoring an essay contest for area students around the time of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

This year, Tyrrell County submitted four essays from home-schooled students in grades 6-8. Representing the Dare County Schools were three essays from First Flight Middle School students and seven essays from First Flight High School, all of those coming from Steve Hanf’s journalism class.

The essay question to be answered this year was whether a Holocaust could happen again and if so, what conditions would make it possible for that to happen. Winners received $100, 2nd place received $75, and 3rd place received $50.

The three winners from the three different student groups are G. Sarde Howell IV, Howell Academy Homeschool, Deanie Kunz, First Flight Middle School and Emily Benton, First Flight High School.

Their essays are published here.


By G. Sarde Howell IV

Howell Academy Homeschool

G. Sarde Howell IV

My great-grandfather, who was on Mussolini’s hit list as a political opposition, managed to escape Italy and rebuild his life in America. When a government oppresses its citizens and/or targets a specific population unfairly not everyone has the capabilities or financial means to flee to safety.

Adolf Hitler was a German dictator who murdered twelve million people in twelve years becoming one of the worst genocides in history. A genocide is a state-sponsored systematic unlawful treatment through serious mental or bodily harm to members of the group, in-humane living conditions, and even mass killings. The first genocide of the 21st century was in 1904 and sadly are still going on today due to dictators causing these atrocities.

The United Nations was created in 1945 to establish international common ground of peace; unfortunately not all leaders follow these guiding principles. A key focus is to prevent crimes against humanity; while the UN may be able to create laws, it is difficult to enforce them because they do not have their own military. With multiple types of political systems (ranging from democracies to dictatorships) only one contains the capabilities to conduct a genocide – dictators. These cruel tyrants usually come to power by coups, arresting military/government personnel, or by forcibly becoming a leader. Once in a position of power their rhetoric changes and they lead by force, create fear, and rule through unfairness. They dissolve term limits, silence their opposition, build a military and make it hard for the other counties to intervene.

Throughout history there have been several areas in Africa and Asia where genocides were prevalent and some current genocides can escalate into another Holocaust. Some areas to closely monitor in Africa are Sudan, South Sudan, and The Central African Republic; in The Middle East are Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. In Asia two powerful leaders closest to this threshold are Russia and China. Russia has committed two genocides in Ukraine: one in 1933 and one in 2021. China is currently murdering millions of Uyhgurs (Turkish Muslims). These ruthless dictators want to expand their territory, conduct ethnic cleansing, push their religious beliefs and political ideologies at the expense of innocent people. These dictators seek 100% control of their people, whether it is through police-states, the media, or just killing people.

Countries under long standing tyrants, rising strongmen politicians promising to save the country from economic despair and victors from civil war are conditions that could lead to another genocide. Once they have the first taste of their power, they will quickly modify government policies, control news and media, set up surveillance systems and strengthen military presence.  They create a younger obedient population by indoctrination through education, control the voices of their people by eliminating freedom of speech, and make elements of daily life hard, such as food rations, all creating fear to formalize a following of citizens. My wish is that the United Nations stands up for what is right and stops these slaughters once and for all.


By Deanie Kunz

First Flight Middle School

Deanie Kunz

Yes, I do believe it’s possible for something like the Holocaust to happen in present times. I think this because many people say the Holocaust didn’t happen, and that it’s a hoax. If someone who has a lot of fame and people following them, says that the Holocaust was fake or what Hitler did was right, then people wouldn’t think about the Holocaust, and how bad and wrong it was. People will soon forget about the Holocaust or just not care. Like this quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” –George Santayana. People who forget the past are going to repeat that history. People who choose not to learn history won’t think it’s a big deal, when after learning about it you come to realize how BAD it actually was, and how bad Hitler himself was. People say that Hitler was RIGHT for it, and those people are definitely going to be the cause or threaten something like the Holocaust to repeat.

Racism still exists and eventually if a racist government takes control of a country it could definitely happen, and that’s only one of the conditions. More examples of conditions that have to happen to make something like the Holocaust happen again would probably be, propaganda (which means information, sometimes biased or deceiving, used to promote to a particular cause or point of view) about how a certain group of people, such as Black people, Asian people, or people who follow a certain religion, make bad things happen, which is how Hitler got people to start disliking Jewish people. A controlling government or the type of government that tricks you into thinking what they are doing is okay, are types of governments that could make things like the Holocaust happen again. Hitler was one of these governments. Started off like he was a great guy and understood them, and then started to target Jewish people. Governments that manipulate people are also a great example of a condition.

Places that could have something like the Holocaust happen again could be anywhere with a controlling government. North Korea is a great example. They can’t even leave. If they even talk anything bad about the government then they torture you. What would stop them from taking a certain group of people and torturing them? They already do it to specific people. It wouldn’t be very hard for them to do, and they control practically every aspect of life, why not torture a large group of people they dislike? North Korea is definitely one of the top countries where I think something like the Holocaust could happen again.

In summary, conditions could include a controlling, manipulative government, (such as North Korea), propaganda, and some things that would make something like the Holocaust happen again could be people that believe that what Hitler did was right or doesn’t care about history, or simply didn’t learn or remember the Holocaust.


Emily Benton

First Flight High School

Emily Benton

“Never again.” This was the phrase said time and time again after people in concentration camps were liberated and the Nazi regime was overthrown. However, the factors that led to the Holocaust are still present in today’s society and the maddening reality is that something like this could happen in modern times.

When Hitler rose to power in the 1930s, the world was still grappling with the effects of World War I that ended in 1918. Germany was hit particularly hard by the war and subsequent economic Depression, and German citizens were unhappy with the existing political party’s response. This allowed Hitler to gain momentum with his promises of prosperity, order and a strong government. German democracy was destroyed as a result of the Nazis’ rise to power, and their idea of racial supremacy propelled them to begin their reign of terror. The Nazis’ totalitarian government thrived on the cruel violence they subjected people of Jewish descent to. They utilized intimidation tactics because of the sheer amount of power they possessed. They also spread propaganda that encouraged antisemitic ideals, which caused the Jewish people to be even more discriminated against than they already were. It made other groups indifferent to the persecution of the Jewish population, and allowed the Nazis to mistreat them while other groups turned a blind eye.

I believe that something like the Holocaust could happen today, but perhaps not to the extent that occurred with the Jewish population. I think it could occur in areas that have totalitarian governments, such as China, North Korea and Russia. The rulers of these countries use intimidation, power and propaganda to manipulate their citizens into following them.

In fact, one modern instance that draws similarities to the Holocaust is happening with the Uyghurs in China. The Uyghurs are a Muslim ethnic minority that are native to Xinjiang, a region in northwest China. For years, the group has been the subject of oppression and discrimination at the hands of the Chinese government. They have long been in contention with the leaders of China because their Muslim religion conflicts with the atheist Chinese Communist Party. In an attempt to suppress the Uyghurs, the Chinese government detains members and holds them against their will in facilities simply because of their heritage. Reports have stated that members of this group are being put in so-called “re-education” camps that are comparable to the concentration camps Jewish people were put into. According to the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs, China has detained more than one million Uyghurs since 2017 and is subjecting them to forced labor. The key difference is that these Chinese camps are not considered death camps like the Nazi concentration camps. However, a number of Uyghurs have been killed in the camps. Detainees are sometimes released months to years after first being placed in these camps, but this is a rarity, as the majority are forced to stay. China’s ultimate goal is to alter the Uyghurs’ way of thinking to align more with that of the Chinese government.

The common thread between the Jewish population under Hitler’s reign and the Uyghurs in China is that both of these groups were targeted for their beliefs that were different from the government officials. Innocent men, women and children were persecuted, shunned and murdered. We need to do what we can to prevent more events like this from happening. The tragedy of the Holocaust will be felt forever. We don’t need another event to remind us of the atrocities that minority groups have endured throughout history.

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