This piece about UK schools reportedly dropping the subject of the Holocaust from history classes began circulating via e-mail in mid-April 2007:
Recently, this week, UK removed The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it “offended” the Moslem population which claims it never occurred.
This is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving into it.
It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended.
This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the 6 million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated with the German and Russia peoples looking the other way!
Now, more than ever, with Iran, among others, claiming the Holocaust to be “a myth,” it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets. This e-mail is intended to reach 40 million people worldwide!
Join us and be a link in the memorial chain and help us distribute it around the world.
Please send this message to all people you know and ask them to continue the memorial chain.
Please don’t just delete it. It will only take you a minute to pass this along – Thanks!
Its central claim, that schools in Britain no longer teach about the Holocaust for fear of offending Muslim students, isn’t on the money: Even news articles that bore headlines such as “Teachers drop the Holocaust to avoid offending Muslims” only cited a single example of one history department in a northern UK school that did that (and for reasons other than avoiding “offending Muslims”). In all the rest of the country’s schools, information about the Holocaust was still being imparted to students.
Those news articles were a response to the March 2007 release of the Historical Association’s report titled Teaching Emotive and Controversial History 3-19 (an overview of its objectives can be found here and the full report here), a study funded by the UK’s Department for Education and Skills to examine how educators in Britain were teaching sensitive and/or controversial aspects of history and to highlight what approaches had worked among those that had been tried.
One history department looked at by the fact-finders was found to have cut information about the Holocaust from its lessons due to worries that Muslim pupils might express anti-Semitic reactions. Said the report: “For example, a history department in a northern city recently avoided selecting the Holocaust as a topic for GCSE coursework for fear of confronting anti-Semitic sentiment and Holocaust denial among some Muslim pupils.”
From this single example of one UK school was spun the claim that every school in that country had stopped teaching about the Holocaust for fear of offending Muslim students. In fact, the education department’s plan was the opposite: to ensure that the Holocaust was taught everywhere. A spokesman for the Department of Education and Skills (DES) maintained that “The Ajegbo report on citizenship [a different report authored by Sir Keith Ajegbo and released in January 2007] said key British historical events must be taught” and that while “the national curriculum is a broad framework and there is scope for schools to make their own decisions, teaching elements including the Holocaust and key British events will be compulsory.”
According to a DES spokesman, “Teaching of the Holocaust is already compulsory in schools at Key Stage 3 (ages 11 to 14), and it will remain so in the new KS3 curriculum from September 2008.” Schools in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have different guidelines and curriculums; in those parts of the UK, according to the BBC, “Holocaust teaching is not compulsory but schools may teach it if they wish, and this has not changed recently.”
The bottom line to all this fuss? Schools in the UK are indeed teaching about the Holocaust, something British journalists seemed to downplay in their rush to report that one department in one city was not. The e-mailed call to arms cited above was likely the result of a misreading of already badly-presented news articles.
Several months after the original of this item first appeared, someone mistook (or deliberately confused) the abbreviation “UK” with the University of Kentucky and changed the central claim to be “the University of Kentucky had removed The Holocaust from its school curriculum.” The University of Kentucky issued a press release on 8 November 2007 to correct this misinformation:
The University of Kentucky has announced that a rumor, claiming the school has removed Holocaust material from its curriculum, is not true. The false claim has been circulated via e-mail. The Judaic Studies Program of the University of Kentucky, in conjunction with the College of Arts and Sciences Department of History, offers a course designated as History 323: The Holocaust.
According to an explanation found on the investigative Web site Snopes.com, a message claiming that schools in the United Kingdom would no longer teach about the Holocaust in their history classes began to circulate via e-mail forwards dated back to April 2007. As the message wound its way across the Internet, someone took the abbreviation for the United Kingdom (UK) to stand for the University of Kentucky, and altered the message to implicate the institution. This version has been forwarded to several people and understandably raised concern among alumni, students and other friends of the University of Kentucky.
The original message about the United Kingdom is of uncertain veracity, and any statement linking the University of Kentucky with this rumor is completely false.
“The academic administration of the University of Kentucky would never permit such a grotesque lapse in its commitment to the principle of academic freedom. Let us bury this rumor. It is a distortion of the realities on and off campus,” said UK Assistant Provost Richard B. Greissman.
Versions of this item circulated in early 2008 included the following preface:
EISENHOWER IN DACHAU?
It is a matter of history that when Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, General Dwight Eisenhower, found the victims of the death camps, he ordered all possible photographs to be taken, and for the German people from surrounding villages to be ushered through the camps and even made to bury the dead.
He did this because he said in words to this effect: “Get it all on record now — get the films — get the witnesses — because somewhere down the track of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened.”
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing.
Clark, Laura. “Teachers Drop the Holocaust to Avoid Offending Muslims.”
Daily Mail. 2 April 2007.
Ross, Tim. “Britain Schools Ignore the Holocaust.”
[Liverpool] Daily Post. 2 April 2007.
Vasagar, Jeevan. “Schools Drop Holocaust Lessons.”
The Guardian. 2 April 2007 (p. 8).
Birmingham Evening Mail. “Teachers ‘Too Scared to Teach Sensitive History.'”
2 April 2007 (p. 5).
BBC News. “Holocaust ‘Ban’ E-Mail Confusion.”
17 April 2007.