As the number of Shoah survivors able to personally bear witness to the horrors they experienced decreases, the challenge is to ensure that future generations will be educated and informed of what happened during the years 1933 to 1945.With deniers and revisionists increasing, as time progresses it is more imperative than ever for the lessons of this unique catastrophe to be internalized. Failing to do so will result in the present generation being blissfully ignorant of what led to the murder of six million Jews plus others designated as subhuman by citizens of Europe. It will also mean that students in today’s schools and institutes of higher learning will graduate totally ignorant of the subject. As these pupils are future politicians and decision makers the potential for them being infected with the same virus of Judeophobia is fairly high. Moreover as we can already see the mutation to hatred for the Jewish State is an inevitable progression.

The logical antidote is obviously education preferably as soon as possible or at an age when the lessons can be understood. That is why Holocaust studies have become an essential and critical component of history and social studies subjects in many countries, especially for high school pupils. Of course in order for this subject to be taught effectively there must be educators who are knowledgeable on the subject and who can access and present the material in a manner designed to engage students.

There are therefore two critical components associated with Holocaust studies. Firstly a curriculum tailored to the needs of the pupils and secondly teachers willing and able to deal with the subject.

With the current world-wide surge in Judeophobia, educational authorities in many countries are recognizing the importance of including a study of the Holocaust in school curricula. To this end the subject has been made a compulsory part of history and related topics for senior students in high schools. In 2014 from the beginning of the school year, Australia introduced the teaching of Holocaust studies as a mandatory subject to be gradually introduced in all States for students in years 9 and 10 or ages 14 to 16. Not only do students have the opportunity to visit the Holocaust Museums in Sydney and Melbourne but they also have the opportunity to listen to the personal experiences of Holocaust survivors. These first hand occasions provide the most powerful tools for conveying the full extent of what happened during those years.

Hand in hand with survivor testimonies many educators now have the opportunity of participating in seminars in Israel arranged by Yad Vashem. These visits provide invaluable resource material as well as exposing those taking part to an historical perspective of Jewish experiences, past and present. The flow on benefits to teachers and students alike cannot be over estimated.

The New Zealand situation is different. With a smaller population and even smaller Jewish presence the opportunity for youngsters to learn from and be exposed to Holocaust experiences is severely limited. There is an excellent Holocaust Educational Centre based at the Jewish Community building in Wellington, providing valuable information, It is staffed by volunteers and visited by pupils and adults alike.

However, critically, Holocaust studies are not a compulsory part of the NZ curriculum. The NZ curriculum guide for senior secondary schools has the following introduction:

What is history all about? History examines the past to understand the present. Authentic understanding in history comes from developing a grasp of the key concepts and underlying key historical events, themes and issues. It must include learning contexts that have significance to New Zealanders and/or global events involving or influencing New Zealanders.

One would have thought that teaching the events and learning the lessons of the Holocaust years would fit neatly into these requirements. Refugees fleeing racial, religious persecution and finding a safe haven in NZ, the murder of family members left behind and the personal experiences of post war refugees from Europe all dovetail neatly into the requirements of the curriculum. Bizarrely however New Zealand Governments over the years up until today have not had the urge to make the study of the Holocaust a compulsory part of high school studies. The result is that only a miniscule proportion of high school students will learn about the subject and most of them will graduate with either no knowledge or even worse a warped conception of events.

The handful of motivated teachers who have participated in the Yad Vashem programme will struggle with limited resources to educate their students about the most horrendous event of the twentieth century. A few lucky ones will make the effort to travel to Wellington and visit the Centre and perhaps hear from a survivor or see a film. The best example however of the big black hole into which Holocaust studies in NZ falls is the fact that pupils from one of Wellington’s highest achieving state high schools, Wellington College (my old school) do not visit the Holocaust Centre. Pupils from further afield will have even less opportunity to visit and learn.

A dedicated NZ non-Jewish couple, Sheree and Perry Trotter have mainly at their own expense created a wonderful traveling exhibition entitled “Shadows of the Shoah.” This is taken to many parts of the country and includes survivor testimonies which people in far-flung towns can view. It also affords an opportunity for youngsters to learn about the Holocaust, its causes and devastating impact on the lives of so many. For many it is the first and possibly only chance to be exposed to the subject. Its impact is incalculable.

The bottom line however is that only the surface is being scratched. Thanks to the fact that Holocaust studies is left entirely up to the whim, interest and motivation of the teachers concerned the vast majority of graduating teenagers will be left totally underexposed to the subject.

As the years progress the unique lessons will be (are already being) diluted and disputed. The delegitimisation of the Jews of Europe, their labelling, stigmatisation and boycotting which ultimately ended in their murder by poison gas is already being trivialised. That is why you hear speakers every International Holocaust Day comparing the systematic targeting and organised murder of Jews to other events such as the International Day of non violence!! Declaring “we are all Jews” as Obama recently did is meaningless when at the same time the Jewish State is being delegitimised, stigmatised, labeled and boycotted on a daily basis.

It is high time that the New Zealand Government followed the example of other countries and made Holocaust studies a compulsory part of the high school curriculum. I have been told that teaching about the Holocaust could be construed as a controversial subject which might upset certain sectors of society. In France for example riots have broken out in some schools when teachers have taught it. Well, New Zealand is not yet France.

Nothing will happen unless like in Australia the organized Jewish community keeps up the pressure. It is a disgrace that New Zealand in 2016 should still not see compulsory Holocaust studies as a vital part of their teenagers’ education. Without an inoculation against Judeophobia at that age the potential is high for negative and undesirable results not too far down the track.

Elie Weisel summed it up very well:

The Holocaust was a war against the Jews in which not all victims were Jews, but all Jews were victims.”

Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and is J-Wire’s correspondent in the region.

Holocaust black holes…writes Michael Kuttner


  1. In the U.S., knowledge of history in general, is abysmally low. If you’ve ever seen the tv bits “Jaywalking” with Jay Leno or Watters World with Fox’s Jesse Watters, you know that randomly-interviewed people – especially those under the age of 30, don’t know who fought in America’s Revolutionary or Civil Wars, who fought in the First or Second World Wars, or what concerns us here, what exactly was “the Holocaust.” The interviewees cannot identify a photo of John Kerry, while they immediately recognize a photo of Beyonce (whom I couldn’t pick out in a lineup of White folks). Studies have also shown that public school teachers of the Holocaust know little more than their students. Worse, though, I have not yet seen studies that document what it is that students learn in classrooms or through tours of Holocaust museums. Museum tours are generally led by Survivors -who won’t be available soon- or by docents who I have listened to “teaching” visitors pediatric Holocaust history full of incorrect dates and places, not a word about the rich cultural life of the Jews in Europe prior to 1933, the doctors, lawyers, physicists (who fled from Germany and Hungary to the U.S. and quite literally saved Western civilization from Nazi and fascist Japanese rule and the annihilation of the world’s Jews, including Jonas Salk and Albert Sabine (before they would have invented the vaccines that eradicated Polio in the mid 1950’s), the rich businessmen, musicians stage directors and the millions of poor shopkeepers and scholars, etc., etc. The description of the Nazis as the gangsters and criminals that they were; and, of course, the millions of collaborators and fifth columnists in Western governments and populations who did the German Nazi’s bidding with gusto (viz. Petain and Vichy) and the British who slammed shut the doors to Eretz Yisrael, along with America’s anti-Semite, Breckinridge Long who’s State Department closed America’s gates to Europe’s Jews, and so on. Who shall write the curricula for Holocaust courses and will they leave out their political agenda which universalizes the war against the Jews and trivializes the near annihilation of the World’s Jews into a lesson on the evils of schoolyard bullying? And the latest political agenda, oft led by American Jews, that holds that the primary lesson of the Shoah (outside of child bullying, of course) is that Europe and America must admit millions upon millions of Middle Eastern Arab Muslims, many illiterate, but all raised in anti-Semitic environments and indoctrinated in genocidal Jew hatred which has been expressed in multiple wars by their governments proclaiming (by e.g. Nasser) a war of “annihilation” of the Jews of Israel followed by the annihilation of the world’s Jews in their entirety (viz. Hamas Charter). I have yet to see a Holocaust museum sponsor an exhibit on Muslim Jihadists in the service of the Third Reich (i.e. Handschar Bosnian Muslim SS Division of 10,000 men), though they have put on programs on the few righteous Muslims who saved Jews. I bet reference to the Handschar Division isn’t and won’t be found in Jr. or Senior High Holocaust curricula. In sum, poorly educated instructors teaching politically-correct curricula biased against Israel and even Jews, written by Leftist authors with an axe to grind against the West and against Israel, teaching ignorant children and high school students whose brains haven’t yet been filled with knowledge about the difference between good and evil (hey, cultural relativism means American Republicans are no different from – and no better than- Hamas and PLO Muslim Jihadists and Iranian ruling Mullahs who publicly proclaim their intention to destroy Israel and annihilate the Little Satan along with the U.S., the Great Satan); who haven’t the slightest knowledge about the difference between Rome’s Caesar and Hollywood’s Planet of the Ape’s-Caesar; whose parents don’t discuss around the dinner table the virtues of the various candidates running for the U.S. Presidency, because, in the first place, they don’t have two parents, and if the conservator parent is home from work, they all eat in front of the TV, balancing the frozen tv dinner on their knees while they argue over which tv program to watch- “Teenage Moms” or “The Real Housewives of Kardashian La-La Land.” So, by all means require these empty heads to be filled with Holocaust lessons? I think not. After reading comments written by students after Holocaust museum tours, and after reading materials prepared for Holocaust school courses, I am absolutely convinced that children exposed to current Holocaust education learn: 1. The Jews stabbed Germany in the back and caused it to lose some war against somebody-or-other; 2. The best and most efficient ways to kill large numbers of Jews. 3. Based on what they’ve heard from the Muslim students in their classes, Israel is just like Nazi Germany and is genociding [sic] the Palestinians, whose land they stole and 4. War is bad because it results in killing and the best way to prevent war is to not bully other kids on the playground and if you see something speak up and don’t be a bystander and finally, 5. Our older brothers and sisters in college have learned from their professors that we should admit all the poor Muslim immigrants to the United States because we didn’t let all the poor Jewish people into America during some war a long time ago, and they were killed in concentration camps because they stabbed Germany in the back and we should let the poor immigrants into America because the Jews of Israel are behaving just like the Nazis did somewhere before our parents were born and they are genociding the Palestinian Muslims who we should welcome into America to protect them from the Arab-Israeli war and give them food and houses and send the children to schools because they are just like us and Muslim is the religion of peace and can’t we all just live together even though people have different skin color and wear funny clothes?
    The law of unintended consequences teaches us that Holocaust courses must not be made mandatory, should not be taught in high schools outside of courses in Modern European History, and may be taught as specialty courses in colleges by Professors whose first or last names do not start with Muhammed and whose last or first names do not begin with Hussein.


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