Lawmaker wants Holocaust discussion in schools

Nebraska’s multicultural law would be broadened to teach about genocide

By: - February 16, 2022 5:45 am

Penshaw Monument near Sunderland, in England, is bathed in purple light to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day (Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

Eleanor Dunning said she was shocked when she saw a fellow college student throw up a Nazi signal, and doubly so when the student escaped repercussion from school officials.

State Sen. Jen Day of the Gretna area said she was stunned to learn via recent email that an Omaha area school had tried to teach lessons of the Holocaust but stopped after receiving pushback.

Such incidents underscore the necessity, they and others testified Tuesday, of Legislative Bill 888 — which would add the Holocaust and other acts of genocide to existing Nebraska statutes that already call for multicultural education to K-12 students in public schools.

Currently, the law requires that multicultural education focus on the culture, history and contributions of African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans and Asian Americans.

“Despicable”

Introduced by Day, the broader language had been pushed previously by a former lawmaker but stalled.

Ten people testified Tuesday in support of the resurrected measure presented to the Education Committee. No one spoke in opposition.

State Sen. Jen Day of District 49. (Craig Chandler/University Communication)

The committee took no action, though Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks said she found it “despicable” — and a reflection of “the state of politics today” — that the school Day referred to (but did not identify by name) would receive such pushback about Holocaust education. 

Day cited a recent survey indicating that 66% of millennials were unable to identify Auschwitz (the Nazi concentration and death camp).

That the Holocaust’s systematic murder of six million European Jews occurred relatively recently, during World War II, is further reason to be alarmed, Day said.

“Never Again”

She said she was further concerned that only nine Holocaust survivors remain in Nebraska as a “living, breathing” tool that can equip students with the knowledge to identify and reject discrimination and hate.

“We’re really missing those human to human stories,” said Day. “Ignorance will only increase as (the Holocaust) falls further into history.”

Gary Javitch of B’nai B’rith Omaha said a spike in anti-Semitism is “reason enough” to increase Holocaust education. He said Nebraska should become the 24th state to adopt the legal language.

Said Javitch: “The phrase ‘never again’ needs to be more than just a slogan.”

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Cindy Gonzalez
Cindy Gonzalez

Senior Reporter Cindy Gonzalez, an Omaha native, has more than 35 years of experience, largely at the Omaha World-Herald. Her coverage areas have included business and real estate development; regional reporting; immigration, demographics and diverse communities; and City Hall and local politics.

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