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Treatment of Holocaust “astonishing” Says Canadian Textbook Survey

An agency of the Province of Ontario, in a three year survey of text books in use in public high schools in that Canadian province, has discovered that in none of the text books studied was there “adequate” presentation of “what must be considered one of the most atrocious chapters in the whole history of mankind” – the Nazi treatment of Jews and other minorities. The information was compiled in a 130 page volume entitled “Teaching Prejudice,” prepared by Garnet McDiarmid and David Pratt of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education for report to the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Nineteen textbooks in courses of history and world politics from grade 10 to grade 12 constituted the sample for judging the adequacy of treatment of Nazi persecution of minorities, of these eight textbooks did not mention the topic at all, nine were adjudged poor and two were adjudged fair. None were deemed to be adequate. The writers state “it is astonishing that this issue was not even mentioned in many texts and that in many others purporting to deal with modern history it was treated so casually.” In most cases, the issue was disposed of in a few sentences.”

The writers added: “On the whole, the texts mention only Jews among the persecuted groups and are vague about the total number killed. Most of the discussions neglect to mention the philosophical or social roots of anti-Semitism, the Allied failure to assist the Jews, or the Nazis’ treatment of political opponents, gypsies, Slavs, and Poles. Above all, there is little or no attempt to indicate to students that the gas chambers and ovens of such concentration camps as Dachau, Auschwitz, and Treblinka are the outcome of discrimination against minorities taken to its extreme conclusion.” On the question of stereotyping in textbooks, Jews fare much better than most other minority groups. The positive and “favorable” adjectives or expressions great, faithful, just, wise and genius are the evaluative terms most applied to Jews. The other group with similarly positive attributes are Christians and “immigrants” (in general) whereas Moslems, Negroes and Indians are described by such words as fanatical, superstitious, savage. In 1966, the Canadian Jewish Congress in a brief to the Hall Committee on Aims and Objectives of Education deplored the treatment (or non-treatment) of the Nazi period in schoolbooks. Referring to a book entitled “The Modern Era” it pointed out that in three chapters on World War II exactly one short sentence referred to the Hitlerite racial persecutions. The book is still in use in Toronto high schools.

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