Views expressed in opinion columns are the author's own.
I recently opened YouTube to watch a College Humor video when an ad popped up. It looked like it would be promoting an interesting World War II documentary, and, being a history nerd, I uncharacteristically didn't "skip ad." I then realized it would be about the Holocaust.
One of the ads' titles read, "Jews and Poles suffered its terrors together."
"All right," I thought to myself, "that is true. Maybe this will be about Polish-Jewish relations."
It continued to say, "We did much to save Jews. As a state, as citizens, as friends."
This is when I realized who sponsored the ad — the Polish National Foundation. It ended with the slogan #GermanDeathCamps.
This public relations move is not just about making Polish people feel better about their history. It's also an attempt by the Polish government to compete with the central cultural and economic hub of the region: Germany.
I am not beyond politicizing issues. Often the outcry after atrocities can effect real change in policy. But that only works if the public policy solution repairs the tragic policy flaw from which the victims suffered. For example, politicizing the shooting in Parkland, Florida, is appropriate if it means preventing future shootings.
What the Polish government is doing, however, is the exact opposite. Not only is Poland politicizing one of the worst human atrocities in world history, it is giving it a revisionist spin and using it to foster a form of European nationalism that enables contemporary anti-Semitism.
We cannot allow the Polish government to revise history at a time when Holocaust denial is alive and well against overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The truth is the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it is. Luckily, University of Maryland students can learn a lesson from this.
Here, too, we cannot allow this agenda to change the truth, and we cannot forget the many genocides that have happened and are happening right now. These realities are incredibly uncomfortable, but we all have a collective duty to see and act.
The same way we don't stand for this advertisement, we cannot stand for the persecution faced by the Rohingya in Myanmar, which U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has deemed ethnic cleansing. The same way we don't forget the Holocaust, we cannot forget the oft-ignored Armenian genocide, which the Obama administration failed to officially recognize.
There are tangible things you can do to resist the forces of hate. Show support to your friends who might feel physically unsafe or discriminated against. Stand up when you see bigotry and racism. Join dialogue groups and volunteer on political campaigns that support equal opportunity for everyone. Donate to nonprofits that combat hate, or become a campus leader.
To the dismay of the Polish government and others who try and rewrite history, we can't change the past. But as students in the United States, we have the unique opportunity to change the way the future unfolds. Let's take advantage of it.
Moshe Klein is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at email@example.com.