People wear Israeli flags around their shoulders as they walk on the railroad tracks inside the former Nazi death camp of Birkenau (Auschwitz II) in Oswiecim-Brzezinka, southern Poland April 8, 2013..
(photo credit: REUTERS/JAKUB OCIEPA/AGENCJA GAZETA)
The Education Ministry on Monday announced a new mandatory curriculum on the Holocaust that focuses on the role of Polish and other European civilians in the slaughter.
The two-hour lesson will be taught in high schools this week. This comes amid the controversy of proposed Polish legislation to ban writing or saying “Polish death camps,” when describing such death machines as Auschwitz and Treblinka, where the Nazis murdered millions of Jews and other minorities during World War II.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Saturday night instructed Samuel Abuav, the ministry’s director-general, to have schools dedicate two hours in the coming week to study about “the involvement of European nations in the horrors of the Holocaust, and their role in the murder of Jews.”
The curriculum – titled “The response of the population in Nazi-occupied countries to the fate of the Jews during the Holocaust” – was designed in cooperation with Yad Vashem for students in grades 7 through 12.
“It is a historic fact that many Poles aided in the murder of Jews, snitched on them, betrayed them, and even killed Jews during and after the Holocaust,” Bennett said on Monday.
“Indeed the term ‘Polish death camp’ is inaccurate, since these are German extermination camps
on Polish soil. But as noted, it is impossible to ignore the fact that there are quite a few Poles who collaborated with the Nazis, and we must ensure that Israeli students know the reality as it happened,” he said.
These facts must be “taught and rooted in the younger generation,” Bennett added.
The lesson plans aim to assist teachers and educators in providing their students with reliable and accurate information and contains a variety of suggestions for learning materials including information from the Yad Vashem website, testimonies of survivors, historical sources and discussion questions for the classroom.
“During the Holocaust, some 200,000 Polish Jews were murdered by the Poles themselves,” Abuav said. “Israeli students should learn and recognize this fact, especially now, against the backdrop of attempts to blur historical facts.”
He added: “The lesson plan that was formulated serves as another layer for the education system in imparting the story of the Jewish people.”
As part of the curriculum, students are set to delve deeper into the subject. A special emphasis has been placed on the history and circumstances that led to the murder of Jews in Poland, as well as throughout Eastern and Western Europe, including the Soviet Union, the Balkans and Africa.
Also on Monday, Knesset Education, Sports and Culture Committee chairman Ya’acov Margi (Shas) called on Bennett to halt annual student trips to Poland until revisions to the Polish legislation are made.
Each year an estimated 30,000 high school students fly to Poland to visit key sites of the Holocaust, including concentration camps.