N.Y. State Lawmakers Move on Holocaust Studies in High Schools

The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith today commended the New York State Assembly for approving an annual classroom period of high school instruction of the Holocaust but urged that the Senate, where the bill is now pending, adopt an amendment making such instruction an integral part of regular world history, European history or social services program.

The State Assembly passed a bill last week by a vote of 88-20 that requires high school to teach students about the persecution of Jews and other minorities in Europe during the Holocaust. Charles Schumer of Brooklyn, who sponsored the bill, said the need for such a study as a “moral imperative” and its absence was “an insult” to the victims of Nazism. Other lawmakers argued that more and more groups might demand similar courses.

In commenting on the Assembly bill, Theodore Freedman, national program director of the ADL and coordinator of the ADL’s Center for Studies on the Holocaust, said that one classroom period a year devoted to the Nazi persecution of Jews and other minorities could not possibly convey the uniqueness and significance of the Holocaust for this and future generations.

He added that “the overpowering meaning of the Holocaust can be more adequately conveyed if it is integrated into all appropriate studies of that period. In fact,” he said, “the lessons learned from the Holocaust have great relevance to the experience of other peoples and contemporary situations and can be effectively transferred and applied to them.”

PERTINENT EXAMPLES OF GENOCIDE

Freedman cited as pertinent examples of oppression, persecution and genocide, the black and Indian experience in America, apartheid in South Africa, the murders in Uganda, and the fratricide in Northern Ireland.

Noting that many schools and school systems throughout the nation have already incorporated some program of teaching about the Holocaust into their regular curricula, Freedman said that “we have finally begun to overcome the vacuum that existed on this subject in our educational system.”

“This is of the utmost importance,” he declared, “because we must understand all that we possibly can of root causes of the Holocaust in religion, race, politics and economics if we ever hope to prevent a repetition involving other people in other times and other places.”

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