Back in April, a school district in Southern California required several hundred eighth-grade English class students to write essays based on bizarre propaganda about whether the Holocaust really happened or was just a “propaganda tool that was used for political and monetary gain.”
Before apologizing profusely, Mohammad Z. Islam, the interim superintendent of the Rialto Unified School District initially defended the assignment. After a wave of criticism, he promised to “assure that any references to the holocaust ‘not occurring'” would be stricken from future assignments.
Now, the Los Angeles Daily News has completed an in-depth investigation into PDF files of the actual essays students wrote. Turns out, the school district was flatly wrong when it claimed that no students wrote essays denying the Holocaust.
At least 50 students either denied or expressed doubt that the Holocaust happened.
“I believe the event was fake, according to source 2 the event was exhaggerated,” one Holocaust-denying middle schooler wrote. “I felt that was strong enogh evidence to persuade me the event was a hoax.”
(The spelling mistakes students made are preserved here.)
That kid received 23 out of 30 possible points. The seven lost points were for grammar mistakes and failure to address counterclaims.
“[Y]ou did well using the evidence to support your claim,” that student’s teacher praised, according to the Daily News.
The Holocaust was the systematic mass murder of approximately 6 million Jews and up to 5 million other human beings in Nazi Germany and Nazi-occupied territories during World War II.
Conspiracy-minded Holocaust deniers — mostly white supremacists and various factions in Arab nations and Iran — argue that that the Holocaust was a hoax perpetrated by Jewish people to advance Jewish interests.
The taxpayer-funded school district’s argument-style writing assignment about the Holocaust occurred around the same time that students read “The Diary of Anne Frank.”
The assignment contained 18 pages of instructions and sources. Of the three sources, two come from the websites History.com and About.com. The third is from a webpage on Biblebelievers.org.au entitled “Is the Holocaust a Hoax?” The source claims that the Nazi gas chambers and concentration camps were a fraud. It also suggests that Anne Frank was a hoax. (California School District Promises To Revise CRAZY Eighth-Grade Lesson Promoting Holocaust Denial)
“With all this money at stake for Israel, it is easy to comprehend why this Holocaust hoax is so secretly guarded,” the source proclaims. “In whatever way you can, please help shatter this profitable myth. It is time we stop sacrificing America’s welfare for the sake of Israel and spend our hard-earned dollars on Americans.”
Amazingly, a school district spokeswoman initially defended the assignment, saying that the purpose was to facilitate “critical thinking” skills among area eighth graders.
Using these skills and the conspiracy-laden materials provided by the school district, then, the 50 or so students decided that the Holocaust never happened.
“According to Fred A. Leuchter (leading specialist on the design and fabrication of execution equipment) there is no significant cyanide traces in any of the alleged gas chambers,” a student wrote, according to the Daily News. “So any open minded person can easily be persuaded to believe that the gassings were a Hoax.”
Leuchter is a unique figure in the annals of Holocaust denial. He is – or was – a self-proclaimed gas chamber expert. He has no formal training in toxicology or chemistry. He also doesn’t have an engineering degree despite claims to the contrary. His strange tale is told in a documentary, “Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.”
Some students found Leuchter’s “findings” that the Holocaust could not have happened compelling.
“if gassing would have occurred everyone (nearby) would have died, because the floors had cracks in the floor and holes in the wall,” one student wrote, according to the Daily News.
School district officials have refused to name the people who came up with the bizarro assignment.
“The matter is being reviewed, and as it’s a personnel matter, plus it’s a matter in process, it would be premature and inappropriate to comment,” a school district representative told the newspaper.
Unsurprisingly, Jewish leaders remain upset and concerned.
“Students got high praise and grades for writing that the Holocaust was a hoax,” Rabbi Suzanne Singer of Temple Beth El in nearby Riverside told the Daily News. “It’s worse than I thought it was.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, who is affiliated with the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance, was more upbeat.
“Relatively speaking, a small number of students appeared to have drank the Kool-Aid,” Cooper told the paper. “The rest of them appear to have sechel.”
“Sechel” is a Yiddish word meaning “common sense.”