On April 20, Jewish News published “IHRA amendment threatens to stall Arizona Holocaust education bill,” which clearly explains the current situation regarding House Bill 2241. That bill would require all Arizona schools to teach about the Holocaust and other genocides at least twice between seventh and twelfth grades. This Holocaust education bill has unanimously passed the Arizona House of Representatives but a vote in the Senate is being held up by those wanting to attach an amendment to the bill.
Without going into the pros or cons of the amendment, I want to share excerpts from letters that have been sent to legislative leaders in the past week by a diverse group of citizens including survivors, their descendants and educators in support of a vote on the Holocaust education bill as a stand-alone bill.
“As a 26-year veteran of teaching middle and high school history, I strongly support the passage of HB 2241 requiring that students be taught about the Holocaust and other genocides at least twice between seventh and twelfth grades. I am currently in my 6th year of mentoring at Central High School. I was shocked, as were my fellow mentors, to learn that our students had no knowledge of the Holocaust or other global genocides. This is a horrifying and consequential omission from the curriculum. How will students learn from history unless they are taught about it?”
“I am [name withheld], a Holocaust concentration camp survivor who teaches students about the Holocaust. I support the passage of HB 2241 requiring that students be taught about the Holocaust and other genocides at least twice between seventh and twelfth grades. I feel this is an important bill and should be passed without amendments. This is the third year a similar bill has been introduced in the Arizona legislature and I hope this bill can be passed with bipartisan support this session. My community of Holocaust survivors have advocated for this bill year after year, are in [our] late 80s – late 90s, and it is important for us to see this Holocaust education bill be passed.”
“I am a retired educator who taught at the Munich International School in Germany for 30 years. All schools in Germany are required to teach about the Holocaust in grades 7-12. And this is how it should be. The Holocaust, one of the most well-documented genocides in human history, belongs to Germany’s recent history. They began working through this horrendous part of their past only decades after being defeated in World War II. I was educated in the Scottsdale Public School system, and the Holocaust was not covered. Teaching about the Holocaust raises awareness and gives students a framework to understand how genocide comes about, its racist roots and how fearmongering and dehumanizing propaganda sows the seeds for genocide. It gives students the tools to think critically and question if they are living in an inclusive or exclusive society. It gives them tools to take a stand against racism and ensure there are no more genocides. We owe it to Holocaust survivors to make sure genocide of any kind never happens again. We owe it to them to follow Germany’s lead and ‘Never Forget.’ That can only occur if we educate our young. I urge you to vote yes on HB2241.”
“My parents barely survived the extreme hardships and dangers of multiple European death camps during World War II, and their entire families died in the Holocaust. As a child of these two Holocaust survivors, I am acutely aware of what happened to my family and have been educated about the horrors of the cruel killings of the six million Jews and the immense sufferings of other survivors during the Holocaust. I hope the world will learn the lessons of this tragic period in history and not repeat this with future episodes of mass hate or genocides. Arizona youth should be educated on what bigotry and hate can lead to when exploited by leaders/regimes looking for scapegoats during times of hardship for society. Beyond that historical knowledge, such education is a major opportunity to teach our youth about the dignity and value of all people in our diverse state and country where multiple racial, ethnic and religious groups must live and work together effectively to solve problems and thrive.”
These heartfelt and personal letters clearly state the importance of Holocaust education and why the Phoenix Holocaust Association is advocating passage of HB 2241 as a stand-alone bill. We do not want another legislative session to end without passage of Holocaust education mandate.
After three years, it is time to state firmly and unambiguously that Arizona’s students must be taught the lessons of the Holocaust and other major genocides. It would be one step toward equipping the next generation with the knowledge of how hatred and bigotry of a group of people can lead mass destruction.
In honor of the Holocaust survivors of Arizona and in memory of those who have passed, we ask you to stand with us and contact your state Senator to encourage swift passage of HB 2241. JN
Sheryl Bronkesh is president of the Phoenix Holocaust Association.