Congress pursues bill to educate youth on Holocaust, fight anti-Semitism


A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants a national audit of what public schools teach students about the Holocaust because recent studies found that young Americans lack awareness of that dark period in world history.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, New Jersey Democrat, introduced a bill that would require the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to conduct a study on Holocaust education efforts in public schools nationwide and report its findings to Congress.

“We all have an obligation to teach future generations about this evil. We have an obligation to heal our communities. We have an obligation to teach about this stain of hatred so that it never happens again,” Mr. Gottheimer said at a press conference with other lawmakers.

They delivered the message of Holocaust education on International Holocaust Remembrance Day which marks the anniversary of the Red Army’s liberation of the Auschwitz death camp on Jan. 27, 1945.

Mr. Gottheimer was joined by fellow Democratic Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, Frederica Wilson of Texas, Brad Schneider of Illinois and others. Republican Reps. Tom Kean Jr. of New Jersey, Claudia Tenney of New York and Neal Dunn of Florida also attended.

The lawmakers also warned of an uptick in anti-Semitic incidents in recent years and several studies that found young Americans are ignorant of Holocaust history.

Ms. Wasserman Schultz zeroed in on recent vandalism in her district in which playgrounds were covered with anti-Semitic and racist graffiti.

“They turned out to be teenagers who thought that was just a joke,” she said. “They were trying to be funny. It’s no wonder that we’ve had a massive desensitization and a huge increase in the belief that the Holocaust never happened.”

Just nineteen states require Holocaust education as part of the public school curriculum, while 31 states do not.

Historians have also warned that casual comparisons to the Holocaust and Adolf Hitler that have increased over the last few years are reducing its significance.

“The only person who should be compared to Hitler is Hitler,” said Rep. Jared Moskowitz, Florida Democrat.

A 2020 nationwide survey commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany found that Holocaust knowledge was poor among millennials and Generation Z.

Roughly 63% of respondents didn’t know that 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, and over half thought the death toll was fewer than 2 million.

Almost half of those surveyed also couldn’t name a single concentration camp. More than 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos were established during World War II.

Lawmakers tied the lack of knowledge to the uptick in anti-Semitic incidents targeting Jewish communities. 

The Anti-Defamation League reported that 2021 had a record-high number of documented reports of harassment, vandalism and violence directed against Jews.

Congress has also been the center of controversy with some lawmakers coming under fire for anti-Semitic remarks.

In 2021, the House voted to strip Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Georgia Republican, of her committee assignments last Congress over past rhetoric that incited violence. Some of them were billed as being anti-Semitic.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Democrat, has suffered bipartisan criticism over comments she made against Israel that offended many Jewish lawmakers.
Asked by The Washington Times about the incidents in Congress, Rep. Kathy Manning said she would be interested in a required course for new lawmakers to take about anti-Semitism.

The North Carolina Democrat said she was inspired by visiting with two members of the British Parliament who provided the education materials to their new members. 

“We do need to make sure that all of our members are educated about the dangers of anti-Semitism, the dangers of conspiracy theories, and they act out of knowledge and not out of ignorance,” Ms. Manning said.


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