Malmo, Sweden
Malmo, SwedeniStock

A teaching guide provided by the Swedish National Agency for Education encourages teachers to have students look for evidence that the Holocaust never happened, and to defend that viewpoint, according to Swedish daily Aftonbladet.

The website asks teachers to teach sensitive topics using “this support when discussing how controversial issues can be used in teaching.”

One of the “controversial issues” listed by the education agency is whether the Holocaust took place.

Teachers are told to split their students into debate groups to discuss whether the extermination of six million Jews by the Nazis occurred.

“One Group should come up with at least three arguments that the Holocaust did not happen, using facts and information from the internet. They can also ask others what they think and why,” teachers are advised, according to the news report.

The document says that the goal of the assignment is to teach students how to be critical of sources of information.

The teaching method has been roundly criticized by Swedish Jewish community groups.

“This is absolutely the wrong way to use the Holocaust, for the reason that there are real Holocaust deniers who cannot be equated with the guys who believe that the moon landing did not happen. The Holocaust did happen, it’s not something you can engage in a discussion about,” said Svante Weyler, chairman of the Swedish Committee against Antisemitism (SKMA).

Aron Szugalski Verständig, the chair of the Jewish Central Council, the Swedish affiliate of the European Jewish Congress (EJC), called the advise that teachers have students examine whether the Holocaust took place “unacceptable.”

“Many reports show that it is very difficult to teach the Holocaust in schools today,” Verständig said. “Of course, it is important that teachers have the right tools to do so. But even if it is well-intentioned, there is a danger in calling the Holocaust controversial. It can never be.”

Responding to a query from Aftonbladet, Pernilla Sundström, the head of the Swedish National Agency for Education’s curriculum department, said in an email that “it would be unfortunate if it were perceived in this way. In this context, the concept of controversial issues should be understood as topics that can create tension in the classroom... those that can create controversy.”

“Many teachers testify that the Holocaust can be such a theme precisely because anti-Semitism is still present in society,” Sundström said. “The materials in question are based on the Council of Europe supporting documents ‘Teaching controversial issues’ and ‘Managing controversy.’”

News of the teaching guide came only a week after the phrase “Holocaust was a scam” was projected onto the Synagogue of Malmö and on other buildings in cities across southern Sweden on the day of the Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism.