The House Education Committee unanimously passed House Bill 2682 for Holocaust education today on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz where historians estimate more than 1.1 million people, most of them Jewish, were murdered by Nazis.
House Bill 2682 requires students be taught about the Holocaust and other genocides at least twice between seventh- and twelfth-grades.
“Some of us Holocaust survivors are getting up in age and they won’t be here for a long time to tell about it,” said Theresa Dulgov, a Holocaust survivor from Hungary who has taught for more than 30 years, many of them in Sunnyside Unified School District in Tucson.
Dulgov said that when many of her fellow teachers taught about World War II, she would go in their class to provide a small lesson to teach students about the Holocaust from a survivor’s point of view.
“We have to make sure that children remember, so it does not happen again,” Dulgov said. “You can’t forget what happened.”
Video by Morgan Willis/ AZEdNews: Theresa Dulgov on House Bill 2682 on Holocaust education
House Bill 2682 was sponsored by Rep. Alma Hernandez (D -District 3), a former student of Dulgov, with 58 other representatives and 23 senators as co-sponsors. The bill received a due pass recommendation by 10 House Education Committee members with no nays and no members absent.
Rep. Nancy Barto, (R – District 15), thanked Rep. Alma Hernandez for bringing the bill forward and the Holocaust survivors for sharing their stories.
“People can do horrible things to other people, and just because we haven’t experienced it to the level that it’s been experienced by people in other nations then and now in different respects, we are not immune,” Rep. Barto said.
Janice Freebaugh, who has taught Holocaust education in several other states, said there is no national standard for Holocaust education so it’s often voluntary on the part of the teacher, “but there’s a lot of established Holocaust curricula for students in K-12.”
“Stories, testimonies of eye witnesses are important parts of those curricula, and are often some of the most impactful parts of curricula,” Freebaugh said.
Dr. Alexander White, a Holocaust survivor who later served in the U.S. Army, said he got involved in Holocaust education over 25 years ago.
“I’ve found it to be extremely important not just to be in school to pass an AIMS test, but to learn to be a decent human being, a good citizen, and tolerate people and be kind,” said Dr. White.
“I leave kids in their schools with a message,” Dr. White said that includes the following three core beliefs.
- Number One – Don’t remain indifferent.
- Number Two – Be a decent human being and a good citizen.
- Number Three – Get an education.
“It’s important to teach Holocaust education, because the Holocaust is a prototype of inhumanity of men to men,” Dr. White said.
Wanda Wolosky, a Holocaust survivor, said she often receives letters from the students after she speaks with them about the Holocaust.
“In one letter it says thank you for coming and speaking to us. You saved my life, because I was thinking to commit suicide and because of you’re story, I decided that life is nice and I don’t have to do it,” Wolosky said.
Sidney Finkel, a Holocaust survivor, said that after the war was over there were only three people in his family left and he is appreciative of the bill.
“In today’s situation where anti-Semitism is on the rise, we need to have every kindness,” Finkel said. “Holocaust education, it changes the kids – sometimes their lives. They say it in their letters. It makes them more sympathetic, more loving and appreciative.”
Oskar Knoblauch, a Holocaust survivor, said he spoke to students at 96 schools in the past year.
“Should they learn about American history? Of course. How about world history? Of course. How about the Holocaust? Of course,” said Knoblauch.
Knoblauch noted that each of his presentation ends with questions and answers, “so why am I surprised when they ask me ‘How did the Holocaust happen?’ “Why did the Holocaust happen,'” Knoblauch said.
“Why isn’t that being taught in schools?” Knoblauch asked. “If I have to tell them this, I would need two or three days. I try my best to teach them something about the Holocaust so the Holocaust should not happen again, and who is best to prevent it than children. They have to be taught about it, and the bad stuff that can happen.
Learning about this can help students to become “better citizens and create a better country,” Knoblauch said.
“As a former middle school teacher, I can tell you that is an age where we have a lot of curiosity amongst our students. It’s a chance for them to really learn content and really decide how they’re going to use that content later in their lives,” said Rep. Reginald Bolding, (D-District 27).
Knoblauch said he’s also talked about the Holocaust to Border Patrol officers in Yuma, “because my part of the story isn’t just the Holocaust – it’s the future of this country and the future of this world.”
Knoblauch said he teaches those he talks with to be upstanders – people who stand up for people who are different from themselves to help keep those people alive.
“So do a good thing. Pass the law,” Knoblauch said.
Rep. Isela Blanc, (D – District 26), said, “It is incredibly important to understand how atrocities that are led by not understanding people because of their ethnicity or religious backgrounds can lead up to what we have.”
“If we would teach about the loving and kindness we should all have for each other, we’d definitely be in a much more different world,” Rep. Blanc said.
Pawel Lichter, a Holocaust survivor from Poland, said he was honored to be at the meeting, and he hoped legislators would sign this bill “in honor of the 6 million Jews that were slain and murdered in Poland.”
Rep. Aaron Lieberman, (D-District 23), said about a third of the Arizona Legislature visited Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center – in Israel about a month ago.
As they overlooked Jerusalem, Rep. Lieberman said their guide told them that had the Holocaust not happened “there would be about 65 million Jews alive in the world today. Instead, we’re just about at 13 million, which is the number there was going into the Holocaust.”
‘The fact that through this bill every student in Arizona will learn and understand about the Holocaust and other genocides this is a tribute to the work you have all done for decades,” Rep. Lieberman said as he thanked the Holocaust survivors for their work sharing their stories with Arizona’s young people.