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Should Pa. schools be required to teach Holocaust? - abc27 WHTM

Should Pa. schools be required to teach Holocaust?

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

Trudy Klein-Gompers's family was uprooted from Austria in 1938 when she was just 18 months old. Her father and mother were both beaten by Nazis and German SS. Her grandparents were killed in concentration camps.

It was a bitter beginning to life for Trudy, but an important lesson she wants to share with school children in the Commonwealth. She was the featured speaker at a Harrisburg press conference Monday afternoon.

"I am here today to beg you to mandate Holocaust education in our Pennsylvania schools," Gompers said within earshot of lawmaker offices.

Trudy was joined by survivors and liberators from across the state who are pushing House Bill 176. It would require that schools teach about the Holocaust, genocide and human rights violations for one hour per year, in grades 6 through 12.

"The road to the Holocaust was paved with indifference," said Representative Brendan Boyle - (D) Philadelphia - the bill's prime sponsor. "These folks behind me today show we are not indifferent. We are not going to be silent."

Senator Anthony Williams - (D) Philadelphia - backed a similar bill in his chamber and says it's not just about horrific, black and white, 70-year old Newsreel video of lifeless bodies being bulldozed as concentration camps were liberated. He says, sadly, there are modern-day applications and a great need for this education.  

"The conditions we find ourselves in today, such as anti-Semitic behavior, bigoted behavior, racist behavior, homophobic behavior. All that this bill covers requires our children to be involved in a civic understanding of not just past events but current events," said Williams.

There are critics of the concept. They say if the bill passes, what's next? The Irish, African-Americans, Polish and many other groups have had hardships that are important American stories. Several lawmakers say all Pa. school should teach the Holocaust, but they should NOT be forced to by the state.

"Mandate is not something state government does down to local school districts especially when you talk about curriculum," said Representative Seth Grove - (R) York. "Curriculum is left to school districts."

But Boyle insists Pennsylvania already has hundreds of educational mandates on the books.

"Believe it or not, the teaching of Arbor Day is mandated right now in Pennsylvania law," Boyle said. "I think teaching about the Holocaust is at least as important as teaching about Arbor Day."

It appears the Senate supports language that requires Holocaust teaching, while the House prefers a bill that would recommend but not require its teaching. It's a classic "may" versus "shall" showdown, and it is unclear if compromise between the chambers is underway or even possible.

But the people who experienced Nazi inhumanity first hand, like Trudy, will soon be gone from the earth.

She doesn't want her painful life's lesson buried with her.

"This is not a partisan issue. This is a human issue," said Trudy powerfully from the podium.

"Please, please vote on the side of humanity."

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