Early stories about Holocaust education in the JN appear in 1978.
Yom HaShoah or “Holocaust Remembrance Day” is April 28. In this respect, some interesting Holocaust-related stories have recently been published in the national press and the JN.
Some of the stories were about good news. On March 16, the JN published the story of 14-year-old Girl Scout Emma Beach, who won an award for her project on the Holocaust. Its focus was “Stop the Hate” through education. Famed documentary filmmaker Ken Burns announced that his next project would be The U.S. and the Holocaust, which will air on PBS this fall. Burns declared the film to be “one of the most important we’ve ever worked on.” It was also announced that a new Holocaust Museum will be established in Boston and that Canada is on the verge of outlawing Holocaust denial.
Some reports were not so good. In January, the Holocaust graphic novel, Maus, was in the news when a Tennessee school board decided to ban the book because board members felt the book’s story and images were too traumatic for young readers. This month, Gabriel Ascoli, a junior in a Virginia high school, wrote an op-ed in the LA Times lamenting the fact that she and her classmates learn very little about the Holocaust. Indeed, recent studies indicate that a large percentage of Americans do not know fundamental Holocaust history. And many reports note the recent rise in antisemitism and extremists who deny the Shoah.
I decided to explore the topic of Holocaust education in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History. This was an encouraging endeavor.
Early stories about the topic in the JN appear in 1978. Editor and Publisher Philip Slomovitz devoted most of his “Purely Commentary” column for Jan. 6, 1978, to our “Duty to Never End Exposing Nazis Crime … Teaching the Holocaust.” A year earlier, the headline for the Oct. 14, 1977, issue was about Holocaust education. New York schools were attacked by German- and Arab-American protesters when the system introduced Holocaust studies into the curriculum.
Holocaust education, however, is alive and thriving in Michigan. In June 2016, then-Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation that was sponsored by State Rep. Klint Kesto. It mandated Holocaust and genocide education in all Michigan schools and created a Governor’s Council on Genocide and Holocaust Education (Oct. 27, 2016, JN). This was after 20 years of the Holocaust Education Coalition providing lessons and speakers for Holocaust education (April 1, 1994).
Of course, The Zekelman Holocaust Center in Farmington Hills is the primary lodestone for Shoah education in the state and region. The HC has offered exhibits and Holocaust programming since 1984 when it was established as the first freestanding institution in the United States devoted to Holocaust history and memory.
The Detroit Jewish News Foundation has also contributed, creating two exhibits from the Davidson Archive — “The Holocaust Unfolds” and “Aftermath” — that focused upon the Holocaust and its impacts. These exhibits were first displayed at the HC in 2018 and 2019.
I’ll end with a quote from the May 19, 1978, JN editorial: “If the Holocaust is to be remembered, never to be erased from memory, it must be a part of every reputable textbook.”
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.