PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Monica Vest Wheeler has studied the Holocaust for the better part of two decades. Wednesday, she led a talk at the Peoria Riverfront Museum titled, “Why we must never forget the Holocaust.”

The talk was part of the museum’s “Senior Day,” where older museum-goers got free admission.

“The number of Holocaust survivors is decreasing by the day,” Vest Wheeler said.

Survivors and WWII veterans are a dying breed as that generation gets older and older. Vest Wheeler said her goal is to humanize the Holocaust because otherwise, history could repeat itself.

“We have to understand the human suffering, and we’re seeing this surge in our society today of racism and antisemitism again, and just pure hatred. This is where we’ve got to stop it,” she said. 

“The things that have happened the last couple of years were some of the exact same things that happened in Nazi Germany that turned people’s feelings against the Jews. Because Germany had to blame somebody for their loss in WWI,” she continued.  

While racist and antisemitic sentiments are rising in some younger demographics, Wednesday’s talk was geared directly toward senior citizens.

“This is where we’ve got to pass on the stories. We’ve got to make all ages people aware. And these folks, many of them are grandparents, great-grandparents now, and they have a possibility of changing their children’s, and grandchildren’s, and great-grandchildren’s life by letting them know the human side of suffering and why bullying is not a good thing. All wars and all conflicts start with bullying and power plays,” she said.

She gave a word of warning, however, about how social media can assist greatly with bullying and hate. That effect worries her.

 “Count to three before you hit send, because your words are out there forever now,” she said.