MADISON — A Holocaust education bill is scheduled for a public hearing in the state Senate, after unanimous approval in the state Assembly on Feb. 18, 2020.
The public hearing is set for Wednesday, March 11, 10 a.m., before the state Senate Committee on Education in the Capitol building.
The Assembly voted 98-0 in favor of the bill, after supporters spoke at a key committee meeting on Feb. 12.
The bill comes at a moment when, according to recent research, Americans are sorely uninformed on the Holocaust as antisemitism is growing.
The bill requires that the state superintendent consult with an organization in the state that provides Holocaust education programs – the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center, a program of Milwaukee Jewish Federation, is an indisputable leader on this in Wisconsin.
The bill would require that the state superintendent of public instruction and local schools must “as part of the social studies curriculum, include instruction on the Holocaust and other genocides at least once in grades 5 to 8 and at least once in grades 9 to 12.”
State Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) wrote the bill, at the request of HERC’s Holocaust Education Task Force Co-Chair Bev Greenberg. At the Feb. 12 committee meeting, Darling recalled her visit to a concentration camp in Europe.
“That was one of the most striking experiences of my life,” she said. “We have to be reminded about our history because from this we learn about what our options are in the future.”
Holocaust survivor Eva Zaret spoke at the meeting, too. She told riveted members of the Assembly Committee on State Affairs that she saw “babies thrown to the wall.” She told of family members killed, their graves “in the Danube” River in Europe. But Zaret also smiled, projected warmth, and talked about the role of love. She said she’s traveled the state to speak to Wisconsin children, who respond to love and fairness. At the end, one legislator remarked that she wished the rules allowed a standing ovation.
In addition to Zaret, an archdiocese representative, teachers, students and others spoke in favor of the measure. Some who spoke traveled to Madison via a bus rented by HERC.
Also at the hearing, Archdiocese of Milwaukee Catholic Schools Associate Superintendent Bruce Varick expressed “strong support” for the bill. He noted how his schools partner with HERC for direct teacher training. “The Holocaust or Shoah is a seminal event in the history of mankind,” he said.
About a dozen other states currently require Holocaust education. “We need now to lead the way so that other states will join us and follow our lead,” Greenberg told the legislators, after telling them this vote could have a greater impact on future generations than anything else they do.
“Today’s children will likely never meet a Holocaust survivor,” said Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-Madison), who is Jewish. “It is incumbent upon us to make sure that this history is known and it never is repeated.”