Arizona Passes Law Requiring Schools to Teach Holocaust, Other Genocides

Arizona recently passed a law that will require students to receive at least two mandatory lessons on the Holocaust and other genocides.

Under the law, which was signed by GOP Arizona Governor Doug Ducey last Friday, students must receive at least two lessons on the Holocaust between grades seven and 12. Ducey said in a statement that the law was "a step in the right direction" to combat rising incidences of antisemitism in the state.

The bill was sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Alma Hernandez, who is Jewish and had championed the bill during previous unsuccessful efforts to pass it through the state legislature.

"This was a community effort, and I am proud to see it finally get done," Hernandez said in a statement. "This legislation is an important step to honor both those lost in the Holocaust and the survivors who have worked tirelessly to tell their stories."

"I'm grateful to Governor Ducey for signing this bill into law," Hernandez added. "Knowing that all Arizona students will learn about the Holocaust gives me hope. We must teach the atrocities of the past to ensure it never happens again."

Holocaust Education Schools Mandate Arizona Antisemitism Race
Students in Arizona will have to learn about the Holocaust at least twice between the seventh and 12th grade following the passage of a law mandating the lessons. This undated file photo shows the text of dictionary featuring the word "holocaust." Daniel Heighton/Getty

The new law follows an October 2020 decision by the state's Board of Education that also mandated the lessons on the Holocaust and other genocides between the 7th and 12th grades.

Phoenix Holocaust Association President Sheryl Bronkesh told Arizona Mirror that the law makes the previous mandate "stronger" and would provide students with education aimed at preventing future genocides.

"What we are advocating to teach is for students to understand the consequences of hatred and bigotry by showing and teaching about the Holocaust and other genocides," Bronkesh said. "Since the Holocaust, there have been dozens and dozens of other genocides...We believe that students can learn from these topics by studying what happened, and what led up to them."

Although specifics about how the new law will be implemented are unclear, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) website lists multiple upcoming webinars to help educators "incorporate the new Holocaust legislation and AZ Board Rule" into their lesson plans.

Alexander White, a 97-year-old Holocaust survivor who lives in Arizona and testified in support of the bill, told The Times of Israel that the holocaust "is a prototype of man's inhumanity to man, and young people should know about that" to avoid history repeating itself.

On the same day that Ducey signed the Holocaust teaching law, he also signed a law to prohibit the teaching of critical race theory. Some have expressed concerns that the bills could contradict each other, although ADE officials insist that they will not.

The text of the critical race theory bill prohibits the teaching of "any form of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex," raising questions about whether Arizona Holocaust lessons will have to avoid mentioning the race or ethnicity of the Nazis responsible for murdering six million Jews.

"I hope that bill does not limit any teaching about or inhibit a teacher from teaching the Holocaust, because the Holocaust is the most well-documented genocide, and it is really not controversial whether or not it happened and how many people were murdered," Bronkesh said.

"We know who perpetrated it," added Bronkesh. "Perpetrators have taken responsibility for the Holocaust."

Newsweek reached out to the ADE for comment but did not hear back before publication.