Two states in our region already have a state law requiring some education about the tragic history of the Holocaust. This week, Delaware made itself the third.
Gov. John Carney signed House Bill 318 into law Thursday, which will establish a statewide curriculum on the Holocaust and other genocides in history.
The full text of the bill can be found here, on the Delaware General Assembly website.
Students in grades 6-12 will receive age-appropriate lessons about the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and intolerance.
"By learning and how and why the Holocaust happened, students will fully understand and better understand the ramifications of prejudice, racism and intolerance, and the consequences of inaction," state Rep. Debra Heffernan said at the bill's virtual signing, which was streamed on Facebook.
Carney said Heffernan and state Sen. Harris B. McDowell III sponsored the bill "to make sure that in Delaware, our children and grandchildren, and their children and grandchildren, never forget."
Breaking news and the stories that matter to your neighborhood.
"So that they see what terrible things people can do to one another just because of your religion or ethnic origin. Just terrible things. So this is a really important piece of legislation," Carney said.
According to a 2018 survey by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (the Claims Conference), young Americans are displaying an alarming lack of knowledge about the Holocaust, NBC News reported.
Nearly 1-in-2 millennials asked could not name a single extermination camp, where millions of Jews were systematically killed, worked to death and experimented on by Nazi doctors.
No more than seven living eyewitnesses to the Holocaust remain in Delaware, according to Steve Gonzer, chair of the Halina Wind Preston Holocaust Education Committee. He took part in the virtual signing Thursday. Gonzer also has directed an 8-hour documentary called No Denying where he interviewed several survivors of the camps, liberators, rescued children and righteous Gentiles.
"I think it’s absolutely critical, and it always has been, that our youth especially are aware of the consequences of hate, indifference and discrimination," Gonzer told NBC10. "And they know that there are other options when evil is surrounding us, they can make other choices."
Regina Kerr Alonzo, the former chair of committee - and daughter of a late Holocaust survivor - said "it’s really not so much about 'not forgetting' as...always learning."
On the passage of the bill: "I think that it’s timely. This is not only a way to teach people about what happened during World War II. This is a way of examining our history and learning its moral lessons to prevent it from happening again."
She's heard from some teachers who want to teach about the Holocaust but were unsure of how, or fearful of getting something wrong. There will be workshops and training for teachers to aid them in the curriculum, Gonzer said.
Many Delaware teachers already had some sort of Holocaust and genocide education in their curriculum. The bill requires school districts that don't have one to make their own or consult with the committee for advice on developing one.
Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman signed a Holocaust education bill into law in 1994. Pennsylvania Act 70 of 2014 requires educators to include Holocaust education in schools.