One Way to Teach Kids About Holocaust Denial

Roundup: Talking About History

Jesse Leavenworth, in the Hartford Courant (April 12, 2004):

History teacher Patrick Richardson will introduce his lesson on Holocaust denial by issuing students a press release from the future that declares Sept. 11, 2001, never happened.

"We would say that's ridiculous, and yet 60 years removed from the Holocaust, these things are gaining momentum," Richardson said Friday.

These "things" are claims that the Nazis' attempt to systematically eradicate Jews in Europe either never occurred or was greatly exaggerated. The most prominent figure associated with the revisionist line is World War II historian David Irving. But there are many others. A recent Internet search for the phrase "Holocaust never happened" got 6,160 hits.

Last year, while Mel Gibson's father was making news for his controversial views on the Holocaust, Richardson, a teacher at the Touchstone School in Litchfield, attended a workshop at the University of Hartford's Maurice Greenberg Center. He heard about a contest for curriculum proposals and decided to create a lesson plan focused on Holocaust denial.

The university announced last week that Richardson was one of three teachers in the state to win awards named after two Holocaust survivors, Joseph Korzenik and Joseph Zola. Richardson and the other winners, both from New Haven, are to receive their awards and $1,000 on April 20 at 7 p.m. in the university's Wilde Auditorium.

The awards have been given to scores of middle and high school educators over the past decade, according to a university press release.

"The award winners have reached tens of thousands of students in a five-state region, making this one of the most meaningful Holocaust educator awards in the nation," the release said.

Richardson won for his lesson plan titled, "The Truth Makes You Free."

"Some historians believe you cannot know anything for sure in history," he said Friday. "I decided it was important to show that the truth can be discovered in history. What a good historian does is weigh the evidence and see where it points."

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