Ron Isaac’s Commentary: Another Holocaust Trivialization

Jul 22, 2021 by

Students and educators sometimes pick the Holocaust as a default topic for school projects and audiences also find it lends itself to all kinds of false analogies.

There’s no shades of gray about the Holocaust. No flip side. Folks like me just can’t, in the words of Taylor Swift, “shake it off”.  Why not?

Because of  locales like Treblinka, where 1 million Jews were murdered in one year, the ghettos where infant Jewish children were held by their ankles and their brains smashed against concrete walls, and open pits in Eastern Europe into which Jews tumbled after being shot and often buried while still alive.

Such events are scarcely even in the periphery of curriculum anymore.

One-third of the globe’s Jewish population was slaughtered. I’m a trifle touchy and unforgiving about even inadvertent scoffing at history’s most brutal crime and the most damning incrimination of the human condition and nature.

And so we have another pop-up tidbit about a Holocaust assignment, this time in a New Jersey school.

A fifth-grader gussied up as Hitler and wrote an essay about “pretty great”  Hitler’s achievements.  She was probably just a blank slate and “useful idiot”. But the teacher, principal, Tenafly Board of Education and its superintendent have soiled themselves and their positions.

The teacher did the right thing by quitting.

The nearest thing to righteous condemnation from the Tenafly education officials was their  full-throated concession that the instruction was “misguided” and that the assignment had been “taken out of context”. 

The superintendent allowed that “learning standards were not appropriately implemented”.

The Tenafly Board of Education reinstated the principal, although she “definitely made mistakes that played a role in what happened”.

Wow, what a gracious admission!

If the assignment was given, completed and shared with the class members unbeknownst to the principal, she could still be faulted on the grounds that “the buck stops here”.  But this Hitler essay, like other student work deemed exemplary,  was proudly displayed in the heavily- trafficked hallway not for hours or days, but for weeks.

Either the principal never left her office or else she was not particularly displeased.

The Holocaust is rapidly slipping into obscurity as the collective memory of the world is eclipsed by wilful ignorance or politically-coded contempt for its victims and their posterity. 

Romana Bessinger,  a middle-school teacher in Providence, Rhode Island, claims that books by Anne Frank  Elie Wiesel and other chronicles of the Holocaust have been expunged from the curriculum because, as the school reading coach allegedly told her, “we do not teach the Holocaust because kids can’t relate to the story.”

In future “Never again!” may need to be updated to “Almost never again!”

Ron Isaac

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