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Education

State Senator Hopes New Law Will Address Lack Of Holocaust Knowledge Among Floridians

Hungarian Jews on the ramp at Auschwitz II-Birkenau in German-occupied Poland, around May 1944.
Hungarian Jews on the ramp at Auschwitz II-Birkenau in German-occupied Poland, around May 1944.

A recent survey of U.S. adults under 40 shows a glaring lack of basic knowledge about the Holocaust.

A recent survey of U.S. adults under 40 shows a glaring lack of basic knowledge about the Holocaust.

One state senator said that underscores the importance of a recent update to Florida public school curricula.

The survey found that 61% of Florida respondents didn’t know 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust (31% thought the death toll was below 2 million), 47% couldn’t name one of the more than 40,000 concentration camps or ghettos established during World War II, 50% didn’t know what Auschwitz was and 13% believed that Jews caused the Holocaust.

“Younger Floridians’ lack of basic Holocaust knowledge underscores the need to ensure proper education in our school system,” said Broward Senator Lauren Book (D-Plantation), a former teacher and member of the Senate Jewish Caucus. “Ignoring the history of ethnic and racial persecution leaves us vulnerable to racism, anti-Semitism, revisionist history, and evils similar to those of the past.”

Earlier this year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill sponsored by Sen. Book mandating a uniform statewide Holocaust curriculum. HB 1213 also mandates education on the Ocoee Election Day massacre of 1920, when a white mob lynched a Black man working to expand voting access before burning the city’s African American community to the ground.

“We have a responsibility to learn from our history,” Sen. Book said. “And I am afraid that we’re living in a world where so many of our young people don’t know or understand the terrible things that occurred.”

The legislation went into effect on July 1.

The Commissioner of Education’s Task Force on Holocaust Education is scheduled to provide an update to the State Board of Education on Sept. 23.

Photo used under Creative Commons license.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.

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