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A middle school assignment in Holocaust denial produces death threats

There are many who still try to deny the Holocaust, Hitler’s attempted extermination of the Jews in which approximately six million people perished. Many Arab states are firm Holocaust deniers. And now, according to Philadelphia’s NBC 10 station on May 5th, a school in California is under fire for assigning a Holocaust-denying essay to middle school students.

A California middle school received death threats for assigning a Holocaust-denying assignment
Image courtesy of luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos

Rialto Middle School students were assigned an essay in which they were to debate whether the Holocaust really occurred. The 8th grade class was assigned an argument on whether the Holocaust “was an actual event in history or merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain wealth,” according to a copy of an instruction sheet obtained by Los Angeles’s NBC 4.

The interim Superintendent of the Rialto Unified School District, Mohammad Z. Islam, along with District Spokeswoman Syeda Jafri, have received death threats “verbally on tape,” also according to NBC 4. Police officers were standing guard at the school in light of those threats.

The assignment actually given to the students, according to an instruction sheet, stated: “When tragic events occur in history, there is often debate about their actual existence. For example, some people claim the Holocaust is not an actual event, but instead is a propaganda tool that was used for political and monetary gain." The students were instructed to use “multiple credible sources” as back-ups for their argument.

"You will read and discuss multiple, credible articles on this issue, and write an argumentative essay, based upon cited actual textual evidence, in which you explain whether or not you believe this was an actual event in history, or merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain wealth. Remember to address counterclaims (rebuttals) to your stated claim," it continued.

The students were required to read three articles provided. One of those articles stated, “Even ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ is a hoax.” It further stated, “It is time we stop sacrificing America’s welfare for the sake of Israel and spend our hard-earned dollars on Americans.”

In response to the threats and complaints, the school district stated, “Our Interim Superintendent will be talking with our Educational Services Department to assure that any references to the Holocaust ‘not occurring’ will be stricken on any current or future argumentative research assignments,” according to the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. “The Holocaust should be taught in classrooms with sensitivity and profound consideration to the victims who endured the atrocities committed.” The topic will not be assigned again.

In response, the Anti-Defamation League’s associate regional director, Matthew Friedman, stated, “It’s just a patently false argument and there’s really no educational value there. It’s like asking students to make an argument that the world is flat.”

The United Nations passed a resolution rejecting efforts to deny the Holocaust in 2007. Sadly, even some 70-odd years later, the deniers still insist that it never happened.

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