Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Teaching the Holocaust is a very challenging task and should be in the hands of a skilled teacher who is both knowledgeable about the Holocaust and sensitive to the approach that needs to be taken ("Borough of Tenafly, With Wiesenthal Center, Addresses 'Hitler School Project,' July 8, 2021). Not knowing the teacher’s background, the teacher’s overall objective or the principal’s role in this situation, it is difficult to ascertain just why the teacher and principal needed to be suspended. One thing is for certain, teaching the Holocaust in New Jersey schools has been mandated by the state of New Jersey for decades. Nonetheless, there are few guidelines and no method to measure how effectively the students have been taught about the Holocaust. Do questions on the Holocaust show up on an AP test, SAT test, or any other relevant measuring device?

Teaching the Holocaust should be age appropriate with an end result that helps students understand the difference between “great impact” and “great improvement” for mankind. TIME magazine considered Hitler “Man of the Year” in 1938, and that was after the Nuremberg Racial Laws, the Berlin Olympics, the Night of Broken Glass and the Anschluss. Why did the mainstream media accept that?

Teaching the Holocaust is not teaching about Disneyland. It is filled with a variety of minefields filled by nervous administrators, opportunistic politicians, overly protective parents and patent Holocaust deniers.

And students may get quite upset with what and how they learn about the Holocaust. Even with an extensive background, interviewing survivors, studying at Yad Vashem in Israel and the Museum of Jewish Heritage and Kean University’s course on teaching the Holocaust, I was cautioned by certain parents and administrators about teaching lessons that might upset students. And I taught high school students.

Teaching about Hitler is very important. His symbol, the swastika, probably elicits a more visceral emotional response than the cross, the Magen David or the Crescent. There are still those who think that Hitler was “a great man.” The Jews are still paying a significant price for the perception of what he really was.

Joel M. Glazer
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