MADISON – Today, the Wisconsin State Assembly passed Assembly Bill 55, authored by Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Representatives Jon Plumer (R-Lodi) and Lisa Subeck (D-Madison). The bill requires instruction on the Holocaust and other genocides to be incorporated into the social studies curriculum at least once in grades 5 to 8 and at least once in grades 9 to 12 by public school districts, independent charter schools, and private schools participating in a parental choice program.
“As a teenager, I participated in a youth group project where we interviewed Holocaust survivors. The stories they told were nothing short of heroic but were also filled with tragic loss of entire families and entire communities killed in the concentration camps,” said Rep. Subeck. “With the very youngest of Holocaust survivors now in their late 70s, today’s children will likely never have the opportunity to meet a Holocaust survivor and hear their stories firsthand, so it is incumbent upon us to ensure this history is never repeated.”
Anti-Semitic incidents are on the rise in Wisconsin and the United States. More than a quarter of all recorded anti-Semitic incidents in Wisconsin have occurred among students or on campus. In an era of significant divisiveness, hate incidents against minority groups are on the rise, with the FBI recording increases in the number of hate crimes and the level of violence utilized in these crimes.
“Unfortunately, over the past several years, anti-Semitic activity and violence against other minority groups has increased by alarming margins, fueled in large part by an era of extreme divisiveness in our country,” said Rep. Subeck. “In the face of this alarming increase in hate-related incidents, Holocaust education and the lessons learned from this abhorrent time in history have become even more critical and even more relevant.”
In a recent poll, 22% of millennials said they had never heard of the Holocaust – double the percentage of US adults who said the same. Another study indicated that two-thirds of Americans under the age of 40 do not know 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust and nearly half could not name a single concentration camp.
“The overwhelming bipartisan support for the Holocaust Education Bill illustrates the widespread understanding that the best way to counter misinformation is with a solid educational foundation,” said Rep. Subeck. “There are so many lessons to be learned from the Holocaust and other genocides, including the importance of standing up for others in the face of the most extreme oppression. Educating future generations about the most horrific events in our history could be the one thing that stands in the way of history repeating itself.”
At least sixteen states currently require Holocaust education, and legislation is pending in several others.
The Holocaust Education Bill passed in the Assembly during the last legislative session but was not considered by the Senate before the session was abruptly ended by the pandemic. As the bill has now passed the Senate and Assembly, it will head to Governor Evers to be signed into law.
The Wisconsin-based Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center (HERC) has committed to the state to provide materials and support at no additional cost to schools.
“Thank you to the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center for their commitment to ensuring the Holocaust is never forgotten and never repeated,” said Rep. Subeck.
In addition to the Holocaust Education Bill, the Assembly’s agenda today included Assembly Joint Resolution 33 proclaiming May 2021 as Jewish American Heritage Month, introduced by Rep. Subeck. Also scheduled, Assembly Joint Resolution 31 remembering the millions of victims of the Holocaust; honoring the survivors, liberators, and resistors; and committing to educating future generations.
Representative Lisa Subeck is one of three Jewish legislators in the Wisconsin State Legislature and serves on the board of the National Association of Jewish Legislators. She has represented the 78th Assembly District since 2015 and serves as vice-chair of the Assembly Democratic Caucus.