Humans Think in Categories

Anti-Semitism, (prejudice against Jews) has existed in the world for at least two thousand years. It is a phenomenon that has caused numerous genocides, including the violent destruction of six million Jewish men, women and children and five million individuals of other targeted groups during World War II known as the Holocaust. Genocide events are not rational, nor based upon reality and factual justification. They occur, however, as a result of normal human thinking. Psychologists tell us that the human being, in order to make sense of his environment, must think and sort information in the form of categories. Once formed, these categories are the basis for normal prejudging. Researchers found that when it comes to categorizing information about people, we tend to minimize the differences between people within groups and exaggerate the differences between groups.

We cannot avoid the thought process of categorizing the social world, but after viewing Paul Bachow’s film, “A Journey into the Holocaust”, we realize that we must do something so that the likelihood of genocide is reduced in the future. We must attempt to reduce and even eliminate anti-Semitism, racism, religious persecution and other prejudices. Paul Bachow’s movie gives us great insight into the thought process of the Germans and the murderous measures they used to assure what the Nazi’s called, a “Final Solution of the Jewish Problem”. We can take preventative measures to reduce the chances of this happening again, but we cannot insure that this will not happen again. Paul Bachow’s movie depicts the scapegoating, persecution, bigotry, demonization and eventual genocide of the Jews and other minority groups. The Nazi’s, “ethnic cleansing” reminds us of the advent of extremist groups such as white supremacists and terrorists in more recent years.

Our only hope in ridding society of prejudice is through the training of people to become more empathetic, by imagining themselves in the same situation. By analyzing society’s moral codes, and assessing issues of conscience and moral responsibility, people are able to think about how they would react to various situations and gain a greater understanding of other people’s actions. Education is our only hope in understanding hate and the recurrence of vicious mass murders, atrocities and genocidal crimes in our society and world.

Dr. Gladys Morse, EDD, founder of Garfield Park Academy, K-12, Willingboro, NJ