Is demand for Holocaust lessons the latest Hollywood chic?

Sounds good, but make sure lessons have accurate details and oversight of materials.

Cindy Grosz

OpEds Train stands at end of train tracks at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum
Train stands at end of train tracks at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum

Spielberg, Barr and Voight Are Among A-Listers Sparking Need To Learn About The Worst Time In Jewish History 

Both Steven Spielberg and Roseanne Barr were at events in New York last week, and both had a message:  Teach the Holocaust. Jon Voight, and his award-winning director, Jon Avnet, led screenings and conversations in both California and New York, a week earlier, not only talking about class lessons, but sharing updated curriculum. 
The Tribeca Film Festival hosted a 25th-anniversary screening of Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning 1993 Holocaust drama “Schindler’s List."  It featured a post-screeening discussion and with Spielberg and the film's stars, Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Embeth Davidtz and was moderated by New York Times film critic, Janet Maslin at the Beacon Theatre, located on the Upper Wet Side of Manhattan.  

During the panel discussion director Steven Spielberg said that every public high school in the United States should be required to teach the Holocaust. This made international headlines
“It’s not a prerequisite to graduate high school, as it should be,” Spielberg said during the panel discussion held after a special screening of his 1993 film at the Tribeca Film Festival. “It should be part of the social science, social studies curriculum in every public high school in this country.”
The director was responding to a question about a recent study that showed that 41% of Americans – and two thirds of millennials – didn’t know what Auschwitz was. The poll, released by the Claims Conference earlier this month, showed that a whopping 22% of millennials hadn’t even heard of the Holocaust.
Roseanne Barr cited the same study when she addressed hundreds of attendees at the annual Jerusalem Post Conference I attended in Manhattan, stating that she thinks more schools should teach lessons about the Holocaust. Her remarks were part of her overall pride of learning Torah, making a "delicious" lentil soup, taking her mother to visit Israel and possibly making Aliyah.  "We need to know our history, study our Torah and have pride in the move of the American Embassy to Jerusalem," she said.
Jon Voight joined director Jon Avnet in screenings and discussions in both Los Angeles and New York a week earlier at private screenings and discussions about a movie they made together, "Uprising," detailing the events surrounding Jewish Partisan's attempts to fight Nazi soldiers out to destroy them.

The Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation (JPEF) and the Sigi Ziering Institute of the American Jewish University held private screenings in Los Angeles and New York about the critically acclaimed film "Uprising" to coincide with the re-release of a curriculum about one of the most important feats of resistance during the Holocaust.
 Yes, The Holocaust Must Be Taught.....

As the last survivors are slowly passing on, and world events mirroring the early stages of Europe in the early 1930s are happening today, it is more important than ever to discuss the Holocaust. We must teach Jews and non-Jews about the gas chambers, ghetto life and change in European Jewry, as well as the torture of gypsies, Jewish sympathizers and others.  However.....

 Not All Lessons Are The Same And Oversight Is A Must

Without oversight, classrooms remain an uncomfortable climate of bias and prejudice.  This is not just a Jewish issue.
Last year after one of my articles on education was published, a teacher in California wrote me a lengthy response stating she was a teacher teaching the Holocaust by assigning her students, all non-Jewish, a reading of The Diary of Anne Frank.  While I applaud her choice of reading, I found many problems with this lesson.  Does reading a diary equal a lesson on the Holocaust?  What lasting impact did this lesson have?  What subject area did this assignment fall under, as in Social Studies, Language Arts, Library?  How was this lesson assessed and was there any teacher evaluation on the presentation and assessments? 

I actually did some research on this teacher and found out this educator actually teaches pro-Palestinian anti-Israeli lessons and attends at BDS rallies.  
Here is where this teacher lost me.  It is not totally her fault.  She is part of a system that has too much flexibility and not as much transparency and accountability.  There is much that needs to be done here and around the world.  
 In 2016, I helped pass bipartisan legislation in the New York State Assembly asking for more oversight in classroom lessons.  It never passed the State Senate and thus nothing has happened.  We still have a common core curriculum, which shares inaccurate facts about multiple historic events, not just the Holocaust. 

Without oversight, classrooms remain an uncomfortable climate of bias and prejudice.  This is not just a Jewish issue.  Ask anyone familiar with lessons on slavery, Christopher Columbus and sex education.
It is well publicized how much research both Steven Spielberg and Jon Avnet put into their films to ensure authenticity.  Both built relationships with the actual survivors that actors portrayed in their films. Both spent years reading documents and interviewing those there, from all sides, including non-Jewish Europeans and American soldiers. Jon Avnet made sure to tell me directly that when I wrote about him previously, we omitted the Kazik family, living in Israel, as  invaluable assets and friends. That attention to detail is what every lesson needs.

Yes, we need lessons on the Holocaust.  We also need material oversight, educators being monitored and evaluated fairly, so that facts, and not their opinions about Jews and Israel become the subject.
 Education is a nonpartisan issue that needs bipartisan support. 

Cindy Grosz can be found at