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Bill requires Holocaust education
holocaust WWII
Public Domain photo by Lt. Arnold E. Samuelson, 1917-2002 / Starved prisoners, nearly dead from hunger, pose in concentration camp in Ebensee, Austria. Ebensee was a sub-camp of the main camp 'Mauthausen' near the town of the same name. The camp was reputedly used for "scientific" experiments. It was liberated by the 80th Division of the U.S. Army in 1945.

MILWAUKEE — Gov. Tony Evers signed Senate Bill 69, now Wisconsin Act 30, requiring lessons about the Holocaust and other genocides be incorporated into social studies education for Wisconsin students throughout grades five to twelve. 

“This bill will affect generations of kids in our state and bring increased awareness, and recognition in our schools to the tragedies of the Holocaust, the pervasiveness of anti-Semitism to this day, and hopefully cultivate a generation that is more compassionate, more empathetic, and more inclusive,” said Gov. Evers. “States across our country require or encourage education about the Holocaust for students, I am glad that today, Wisconsin will be joining them.”

The Senate was unanimous in sponsorship.

Senate Bill 69, now Wisconsin Act 30: 

●  Requires the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to incorporate the Holocaust and other genocides into model academic standards for social studies and to develop model curriculum in consultation with a state agency in another state that has developed such standards, as well as an organization that is dedicated to Holocaust remembrance, education, and the preservation of the memory of victims and that provides free Holocaust education programs to schools and training and tools to educators; and 

●  Requires school districts, independent charter schools and private schools participating in a choice program to provide instruction on the Holocaust and other genocides at least once in grades five through eight, and again at least once in grades nine through twelve.

“It’s my hope this bill will help foster understanding and empathy for different people and cultures,” said State Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills). “The history and lessons of the Holocaust are being lost. Future generations must be taught about what happened to make sure it never happens again.”

In a statement, Darling cited a poll from the Independent in London, which claimed that 2/3 of American millennials surveyed could not identify Auschwitz, and that 22% of millennials in the poll said they haven’t heard of the Holocaust or are not sure whether they’ve heard of it — twice the percentage of U.S. adults who said the same.

“The need for Holocaust education is greater than ever,” Darling said, “As the number of living Holocaust survivors dwindles, this legislation will make sure their eye-witness accounts and stories live on.”

The Wisconsin-based Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center (HERC) has committed to the state to provide materials and support at no additional cost to schools.

Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) joined Evers at the Milwaukee Jewish Federation as he signed the bill into law. 

“The overwhelming bipartisan support for the Holocaust Education Bill illustrates the widespread understanding that the best way to counter misinformation is with a solid educational foundation,” said Rep. Subeck. “There are so many lessons to be learned from the Holocaust and other genocides, including the importance of standing up for others in the face of the most extreme oppression. Educating future generations about the most horrific events in our history could be the one thing standing in the way of repeating this history.”

Subeck is one of three Jewish legislators in the Wisconsin State Legislature and serves on the board of the National Association of Jewish Legislators. She has represented the 78th Assembly District since 2015 and serves as vice-chair of the Assembly Democratic Caucus.

“In the face of an alarming increase in anti-Semitic activity and hate crimes against minority groups, Holocaust education and what is learned from this abhorrent history have become even more critical and more relevant,” said Rep. Subeck. “The youngest Holocaust survivors are now in their late 70s, meaning today’s children will likely never have the opportunity to hear their stories firsthand. It is incumbent upon us to ensure their stories and the lessons to be learned from them are never forgotten.”