A new state law aims to fight rising anti-semitism by making sure New York schools are teaching students enough about the Holocaust when Adolf Hitler’s Nazi death camps killed 6 million Jews between roughly 1939 and 1945.
“I was thrown into a truck and pulled away from my friends, separated from my family, forced into a ghetto. That is not a myth,” Holocaust survivor Celia Kener said at a Wednesday event at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan where Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law legislation long championed by Jewish groups.
The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Nassau) and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Queens) gives the State Education Department one year to report back to the Legislature on how well schools are meeting curriculum requirements on the Nazi-led genocide, which also killed another 5 million non-Jewish Europeans including gypsies, Poles, Serbs, people with disabilities and gay people.
A majority of young New Yorkers — 58% — cannot name a single concentration camp, such as the infamous Auschwitz in German-occupied Poland, while 19% believed Jews caused the Holocaust rather than the Nazis, according to a 2020 survey by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
The bill that became law Wednesday easily passed the state Senate and Assembly this year, but it had to overcome opposition from Assembly Education Chair Michael Benedetto in the process after he previously blocked the bill at the behest of the department, which has opposed legislative intrusion into curriculum matters in the past.