Middle and high school students would be required to learn about the Holocaust under House Bill 437, which received a favorable hearing Tuesday from the House Education Committee.
Under the bill, the study of the Holocaust, when millions of Jews were killed in Europe under Nazi rule would be integrated into English, social studies courses and other courses as appropriate.
The study of other incidents of genocide would also be required study under the bill.
Richard Schwartz, vice chairman of the North Carolina Council on the Holocaust, told committee members that it’s possible that a child could attend North Carolina’s public schools, K-12, and never hear about the Holocaust.
“Fortunately, that doesn’t happen all that often, but it is quite possible because it’s not in the Standard Course of Study,” Schwartz said. “It may be taught as part of World War II or events leading up to World War II but it’s not required to be taught.”
To ensure history doesn’t repeat itself, Schwartz said it’s important that youth learn about the Holocaust.
“The [Holocaust] survivors are leaving us,” he said “Along with their departures, we need to make sure that we live up the mantra ‘Never, again.’ ”
Schwartz added: “This bill would help us do that in North Carolina by requiring the teaching of not only the Holocaust but other genocides and make sure our students are not repeating the most horrible times of our history. We’re doomed to repeat history if we don’t teach it.”
House Bill 437 is also known as the “Gizella Abramson Holocaust Education Act.”
Abramson was a Polish-born Holocaust survivor who, according to her obituary, “charged teachers and students across North Carolina not to hate” during school visits across the state.
She died in 2011 at the age of 85.
Rabbi Fred Guttman of Temple Emanuel in Greensboro said at least 21 different states have passed similar bills.
“We’re not the first people to do this,” said Guttman, a former principal and teacher who has taught about the Holocaust since 1979.
He passed around copies of a photo showing 800,000 pairs of shoes taken at a concentration camp in Majdanek, Poland.
The photo is a reminder of the atrocities committed under the Nazi regime, Guttman said, calling the Holocaust the “most organized and systematic, factory-like destruction of people in the history of the planet.”