Monday marked an anniversary 75 years in the making, as well as the first block in a new tradition for Texans.
Seventy-five years after the liberation of Auschwitz, Texans in public and charter schools began the first Holocaust Remembrance Week.
In June, Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 1828 into law, creating the annual week. Four months later, Abbott officially named this week as the inaugural Holocaust Remembrance Week for Texas students, said Erika Lowery, secondary social studies coordinator for Denton ISD.
Educators have since received few specifics on what that actually means. Statutorily, the law is less than 200 words long. It declares that Abbott must designate dates for the week, and it requires instruction to include materials developed and approved by the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission.
Beyond that, perhaps the most specific instruction is for educators to provide “age-appropriate” lessons.
Taylor Poston, a spokeswoman for Krum ISD, said the district doesn’t have anything special planned for this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Week. Despite that, sixth graders read a historical fiction book in an English class about Holocaust survivors and discussed it in context in social studies classes.
Additionally, the students took a December field trip to the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum.
“Students have expressed that this experience will be one they will never forget, as they cannot understand how one human could treat another in such a way,” Poston said via email Friday.
Lowery said Denton ISD is handling the first remembrance week similarly.
She said administrators are largely letting each campus handle this week as they see fit. Before long, she’ll collect feedback from campuses about how they marked the week. That should help officials form curriculum for subsequent years, she said Monday afternoon.
Lowery said the district’s biggest emphasis is on making lessons age-appropriate: What a high school student can handle from Holocaust education is different than what a middle school student can.
As it stood before SB 1828 was signed, many students encountered discussions of human rights abuses beginning in sixth grade. The Holocaust is not mentioned by name in state curriculum standards until high school.
The Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission has several resources available specifically for the week, including a vocabulary list, suggested books and a seven-page list of terms to use cautiously.
“By design, the Nazis manipulated and abused language and imagery to implement the destruction of a people,” the commission wrote of the Red Flag Terms. “In that context, learning about the Holocaust demands sensitivity to the power of conventional tools of communication.”
Among the terms are the “banality of evil,” the use of “hell” to describe concentration camps and the description of Holocaust memories as a “scar,” which implies survivors’ wounds have healed.