VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Oct. 10)
A town-hall style discussion of education in Calgary, Alberta, last week erupted into a shouting match over teaching the Holocaust.
The dispute, which took place Oct. 5, was triggered by about 10 people, described as die hard Holocaust deniers, who charged that genocide against the Jews was being emphasized to the exclusion of other atrocities.
The value of teaching the Holocaust in the local school system was disputed, Bob Bergen, a reporter for the Calgary Herald who attended the meeting, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Jim Dinning, the provincial minister of education, who was present at the meeting, told JTA he believes any group has the right to offer its opinion, even if it is to deny the Holocaust or to say there is too much teaching about it.
Personally, he said he tells such people “each time” that “I fundamentally and categorically reject your position.”
Yet at one point, the minister, apparently angered by the raucous nature of the debate, told the audience, “I am mad. There’s nothing in the curriculum that says: ‘Thou shalt teach the Holocaust of the Jews alone.’”
Riki Heilik, community relations director of the Calgary Jewish Centre, said she understood Dinning’s frustration and believed his statement was taken out of context.
“When we teach about the Holocaust, it’s not for the purpose of just the Jews, it’s for the questioning of what happens to a society when hatred is promoted against any group,” she said, adding that the Jewish community’s “purpose is to teach about racism and intolerance.”
Bergen said the uproar was started by a small, noisy group “seeming all to have thick European accents, with one being a definitive German accent.”
The reporter singled out one of them, Mark Kruezer, who acknowledged his German descent and complained that he “was subjected to abuse in school because he was made to feel the brunt of the Holocaust.”
Bergen said the Kruezer family were known Holocaust deniers “very active in Calgary with Holocaust-denial literature.”
Rita Dempsey, who chairs the Calgary Board of Education, said she recognized the protesters from other meetings and correspondence.
“What they are fundamentally asking is that we write the curriculum the way that they want it,” Dempsey said.
“They claim they don’t believe that 6 million Jews died; they ask about the bombing of Dresden; and they bring up the famine in the Ukraine,” Dempsey said.
“These people are filled with hatred and are very negative,” she said, “I don’t know if they even want a dialogue.”