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U.K. Removes Holocaust from School Curriculum?

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Online chain letter urges remembrance of the Holocaust, claiming the U.K. has removed all mention of the event from its school curriculum for fear of offending Muslims.

Description: Rumor / Forwarded email
Circulating since: April 2007
Status: Erroneous and misleading (see details below)

Email text contributed by B. Mayoff, Apr. 12, 2007:

Subject: FW: In Memoriam

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 six 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 e-mail to 10 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!

Analysis: Let me begin by throwing cold water on the claim that the United Kingdom "banned" or "removed" references to the Holocaust from its school curriculum. That's false, albeit inspired by April 2007 news coverage of a government-funded study which found that a small number of British schools and some individual teachers admitted to avoiding the presentation of "emotive" subject matter such as the Holocaust to their students for fear of giving offense to Muslims or otherwise generating controversy.

Officials: Holocaust teaching still required in British schools

According to the same government officials who commissioned the study, the Holocaust was and still is a required subject in U.K. schools. Reports that the topic has been "banned" due to pressure from Muslim groups are erroneous and misleading.


Fuzzy statistics

The message purports to memorialize "six 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" — all under the rubric of "the Holocaust." As the term is traditionally applied, however, Holocaust refers specifically to the fate of the six million European Jews who died as a result of the genocidal policies of the Nazis.

It's unclear where, precisely, the rest of those statistics came from and what they're supposed to refer to. "Twenty million Russians" presumably represents the number of Soviet citizens who died as a result of famine and repression under the rule of communist dictator Joseph Stalin, the brutality of whose regime was comparable to that of the Nazis (though its victims are not usually included among victims of the Holocaust). Historians disagree on the exact number of deaths Stalin was responsible for, but 20 million is not an unreasonable estimate.

I don't know who the "10 million Christians" are supposed to be. Several times that many Christians died during World War II, of course, but not directly as a result of persecution or genocide. If it doesn't refer to Christian war dead, could the figure be meant to reflect a subset of Stalin's 20 million victims? Your guess is as good as mine.

As for the "1,900 Catholic priests" cited, I was unable to find a reference confirming this exact number, but it is well known that the Nazis persecuted Roman Catholics, particularly in Poland, killing or imprisoning hundreds of clergymen. Perhaps the exact total was 1,900.

Falsehoods obscure and trivialize the message

In any case, though it's true that Holocaust denial is still very much with us and especially rife in the Muslim world today (see the statements of Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad), folks who are truly serious about keeping the memory of this deplorable moment in human history alive would do well to eschew participating in this self-styled "memorial chain letter," if for no other reason than that it obscures and trivializes the very message it's supposed to convey.

Update: A new version of this rumor compounds these falsehoods by misinterpreting the abbreviation "U.K." and claiming the teaching of Holocaust history has been banned at the University of Kentucky. Read more...

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Sources and further reading:

Schools 'Avoid Holocaust Lessons'
BBC News, 2 April 2007

A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust: Victims
Florida Center for Instructional Technology

The Holocaust
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

Haunted by History's Horrors
Time, 10 April 1989

Iranian Leader: Holocaust a 'Myth'
CNN, 14 December 2005

Last updated: 04/15/07

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