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April 23, 2011

Holy Toledo! students learn about Holocaust horrors (Updated)

Filed under: Buchenwald, Dachau, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:42 am

I was planning to write today about the ship St. Louis, which was carrying Jewish passengers to Cuba. When the passengers were turned away, the St. Louis then docked in an American port but the Jews were not allowed to enter the United States.  Then I read a comment made on this post that I wrote a year ago, and decided to update it.

Here is a quote from the original news article upon which this post was based:

MONROE — For several weeks, ninth graders at Monroe High School had been assigned to read Elie Wiesel’s memoir Night.

The book Mr. Wiesel penned more than 50 years ago was used to introduce the approximately 300 students to the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Last week, they learned about multiple facets of one of history’s darkest chapters, with some of them getting a firsthand account from a woman who lived through it.

Over a one-hour period, students were jammed standing up into a space that simulated a railroad car. They tasted cabbage and bread, the typical meal given to Jews in concentration camps. In one class, they learned of the staggering number of people killed.

Mr. Wiesel’s book, required reading for the ninth graders’ English class, and the classroom sessions were for Holocaust Remembrance Day on May 1.

Deborah Mau, an English teacher who helped organize the program, said the main focus was to have students delve deeply into the Holocaust and World War II. “This gives them a lesson on tolerance and recognizing that not everyone has to look like you and to accept people for their differences and uniqueness,” she said.

Nine segments ranging from stories about Holocaust survivors to slides on Dachau to poetry and Jewish holidays were available. Students could attend three sessions.

I am sorry that my criticism of the Monroe High School program offended anyone, but I truly feel that students in the 9th grade should not be taught about the Holocaust in this way.  First of all, Elie Wiesel’s book Night should be taught as literature, not as a way to “introduce students to the atrocities of the Holocaust.”  The atrocities in the book Night are fiction, and the book should be taught as fiction.  Babies were not thrown, alive, into a burning ditch at Auschwitz, and students should be told that this atrocity did not happen.

Mark Scoles, left, conducts a “Remembrance Walk” through the hallway in which a march to the death camps is reenacted during an afternoon of Holocaust Remembrance activities.

The students who were on the pretend “march to the death camps” should have been told that prisoners were marched OUT of the death camps, not TO the death camps. They were marched out to get them out of a war zone and into a safer camp.  The purpose of these marches was to save the lives of the prisoners, not march them to their death. Elie Wiesel volunteered to join the march out of Auschwitz and was then taken to the Buchenwald camp where he survived.

The students, who were fed cabbage and bread, should have been told that Heinrich Himmler, who was in charge of all the concentration camps, had a degree in Agriculture and he was growing cabbage, using the method of organic gardening, which was pioneered by the Germans.  The bread given to the prisoners was whole grain bread, not the fluffy white bread that Americans were eating during World War II. The students should have been told that food was rationed in all countries during World War II, including America.

The students, who had to stand for an hour in a crowded space, should have been told that, during World War II, there was a scarcity of trains and even upper class German citizens were riding in cattle cars.

These students were taught “a lesson on tolerance and recognizing that not everyone has to look like you and to accept people for their differences and uniqueness.”  Teaching tolerance is fine, but it is wrong to tell high school students that the Jews were deported to camps because of “intolerance or differences or uniqueness.”  This is a touchy subject that might be too offensive to teach in the 9th grade, but the students should at least have been told that one of the main reasons that the Jews were kicked out was because Hitler, and many of the German people, thought that the Jews were responsible for causing Germany to lose World War One.

The students should have been taught that the “staggering number of people” who were killed is unknown.  The numbers keep changing and there are no records to prove the “staggering number.”  The “staggering number” of people killed in the Holocaust should be taught in context with the number of non-Jews killed during World War II, who were not in concentration camps.

The students should have been taught that the reasons for genocide vary from one country to another, but there is always a reason that a group of people are targeted. Genocide is not caused by intolerance or racism or differences between people.  Jews have been targeted for thousands of years, in many different countries, and it is not because of their religion.

The students should have been told that there were “internment camps” in America where Japanese-Americans, citizens of Germany, and German-Americans were imprisoned in violation of the American constitution.  German-Americans, who had not committed any crime, were kept in these camps for two years AFTER the war.  German citizens were kidnapped in South America and brought to America to be put into the internment camps.

There was a war going on when the Holocaust happened.  The students should have been told about the war crimes committed by BOTH sides during World War II. Along with the lessons on the “death camps” for Jews, the students should also learn about Eisenhower’s “death camps.”

Continue reading my original post:

According to a news article on the Toledo Blade website, 9th graders in Monroe, Ohio are spending several weeks learning about the horrors of the Holocaust in preparation for Holocaust Remembrance Day on May 1st.  How many Holocaust Remembrance Days are there?  Enough, already.

The Toledo students saw a slide show on the cremation ovens at Dachau; they ate cabbage and bread just like the concentration camp prisoners and even stood for an hour in a cramped space to feel what it was like to be jammed into a railroad car on the way to a death camp.  Prior to this, they had spent several weeks reading Elie Wiesel’s book “Night.”  

What are these students supposed to learn from this?  Elie Wiesel is still alive and in better health than I am.  He did not mention cremation ovens in “Night.”  For you old folks, who have not had the benefit of a modern education, here is what the ovens at Dachau look like.

Three of the four ovens at Dachau

The cremation ovens at Dachau

The students participated in a “Remembrance Walk” through a school hallway in which a “march to the death camps” was re-enacted.  A picture of the march is shown on the Toledo Blade website, but it is not clear whether this is a re-enactment of a march to Auschwitz, which was a death camp, or a march of the Auschwitz survivors to one of the death camps in Germany (Dachau, Buchenwald and Mauthausen) after Auschwitz was abandoned.  Elie Wiesel survived the march to Buchenwald.

According to the Toledo Blade, “Monroe teacher Karla Perez gave presentations on genocide. She explained to students that more than 9 million were killed in the death camps, but that the atrocities of World War II continued with the genocides in Darfur in Sudan, Cambodia, and Rwanda.”

This implies that there is a connection between the genocide of World War II and more recent genocides in Darfur, Cambodia and Rwanda.  What are the students in 9th grade English classes supposed to learn from all this?

There were 11 million people killed in the death camps — 6 million Jews and 5 million others.  But what about the millions of “expellees” who died after World War II?  For 17 years, the former Dachau concentration camp was home to ethnic Germans who were expelled from Czechoslovakia.  Wouldn’t a slide show about these homeless refugees be better than photos of the Dachau ovens?

When I was in 9th grade, we learned English grammar and English literature in English class, not Holocaust literature.  Why do students in America now spend weeks learning about something that happened in Germany and Poland 65 years ago?  Is this supposed to teach tolerance?  I think that this is the way to teach INTOLERANCE.

Update, April 24, 2100:

In a comment, a reader asked what Harvard Professor of Literature Stephen Greenblatt would make of my 20th century English education. In a letter to the New York Times on 30th August 2005 Greenblatt wrote:  “Should claims that the Holocaust did not occur also be made part of the standard curriculum?” He was referring to the standard school curriculum in America which, by law, must include instruction in the history of the Holocaust.

The phrase “the Holocaust did not occur” or “the Holocaust never happened” is used by “Holocaust True Believers” to make “Holocaust deniers” seem stupid.  Of course the Holocaust happened.  It is the details of Holocaust history that are in dispute.

When I visited Berlin, before the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe was built, there was a billboard at the future site of the memorial.  Below is a picture of the sign.

Billboard in Berlin says “The Holocaust never happened”

The message on this billboard was intended to be facetious, but some people took it literally, and the sign had to be taken down.  You can read about the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe here.


  1. My apologies for the lateness of my response, but your blog entry only recently came to my attention. I’d like to address the appalling lack of knowledge and context apparent in your post.
    Not that it matters, but the students in question are in Monroe not Toledo. Of more immediate concern is your complete misinterpretation and misrepresentation of my part for this presentation, the context for that presentation, and the reason why I made the connections I made.

    My presentation starts with a brief review of the Holocaust, which is covered in greater detail by others, not me, as it is still a salient fact of World History. I then shift to the world’s response to the Holocaust, which includes the creation of the U.N., the Genocide Convention, and those immortal words “Never Again.” Within the context of those words, to which the U.S. was a signatory, I create the linkages forward to how we kept that promise. Darfur, Rwanda, Cambodia suggest the extent to which we failed to keep our promise and our mission. When students who don’t even know where or what any of those places are, much less what has happened or is happening there begin to discover such things, this is the creation of knowledge and content which is the basis of education. Or in your own word, ‘what students are supposed to learn.’

    Of course you are free to disagree about the value of education, the educative process, the people involved in that process trying to make the best decisions they can to engage students and create knowledge so that future citizens can make the best possible, informed decisions they can, because that is not your job. From your lofty perch of cynicism and half-truths and half-understanding, it is far easier for you to denigrate those caught up in that process and degrade a half-day program that attempts to expand high school freshmen’s horizons.

    These are not college students, they are ninth-graders, some of whom see and understand things differently after their experience. Even if they never go to college, they are in a more informed position to take on the issues required of them as citizens of their country and world.

    As a journalist, I would have thought you’d be a bit more interested in fact and context, but since your blog does not have to conform to such standards, you are free to express as much contempt, cynicism, and ignorance of fact as you wish. This makes you not part of any solution, but part of a myriad set of problems.

    But maybe that is just you playing to your readers, especially the one who suggested I take my students to a funeral home to view cremation and its cost. Seriously? That this person can equate viewing a crematorium for profit that deals with the inevitable end of human life under normal circumstances to the murder and burning of millions of bodies in service of a ‘final solution’ is beyond non-educative.

    But perhaps that disservice to education on any level is what you are looking to purvey. Anyway, don’t worry. Budget cuts have dictated that we won’t be doing anything you deem so offensive and wasteful this year, and probably never again.

    Congratulations on your victory.

    Comment by Karla Perez — April 26, 2012 @ 6:15 am

    • Sorry that I offended you. I have updated my post to answer your comment.

      Comment by furtherglory — April 26, 2012 @ 9:02 am

    • Thank you for your work and your comment, Ms. Perez. Unfortunately, as I’m sure you have noticed, you have come to the wrong site if you expect any type of rational discussion with these folks. In the past they have stated that Hitler “was not a racist.” If you expect much else in the way of intelligent and thoughtful comments, you will be disappointed. See, in their world, the Nazi treatment of the Jews during the war was for the Jews’ own benefit. Just above it is noted that the Nazi death marches were to save the lives of the prisoners from a war zone, and that in contrast, Eisenhower ran death camps. This isn’t about history for them, it is about their political motivations. Best to you, Raymond.

      Comment by Ray — April 26, 2012 @ 6:05 pm

      • The word “racist” was not in English dictionaries in 1933. I don’t know if the word Rassist was in German dictionaries, but I suspect that it was not. The word “racist,” as used in America today, had no meaning in the world of 1933. In his public speeches, Hitler always spoke of “International Jewry,” not about the Jewish race.

        Hitler was not against the “Jewish race,” but rather, he was against the way the Jews were organized for the benefit of the Jews, and for no one else. That is why he wanted to “ausrotten” the Jews from Europe, meaning to get rid of the Jews in Europe. Ausrotten has been translated into English as “to exterminate” which means something entirely different than what Hitler meant.

        I have written 670 posts on my blog, which are still archived on my blog, and I did not write on any of these 670 posts that the Nazi treatment of the Jews was for the benefit of the Jews.

        As for the “Nazi death marches,” this has been discussed at length by the followers of this blog. On January 17, 1945, Soviet soldiers were in the vicinity of the Auschwitz camp. On January 18, 1945, the 67,000 prisoners at the three Auschwitz camps were given a chance to join a march out of the camp or stay in the camp, and 60,000 of them decided to go on the march, rather than stay behind to be liberated by the Soviet soldiers. Most of the 7,000 who stayed behind were too sick to march. Elie Wiesel wrote in his book “Night” that he was in the hospital because he had had an operation on his foot, but he got out of his hospital bed and joined the march. After walking to the German border, he was put on a train to Buchenwald, where he survived. Telling high school students that the purpose of a “death march” was to kill the prisoners is obviously wrong because of the great number of prisoners who survived the death marches.

        If Eisenhower’s camps for “Disarmed Enemy Soldiers” were not death camps, why did 1.7 million of the German soldiers, who surrendered and were in Eisenhower’s camps, never return to their families and were reported by their families as missing?

        I write about history on my blog; I have no political motivations.

        You can hear Hitler talk about International Jewry in this YouTube video:

        Comment by furtherglory — April 27, 2012 @ 6:33 am

    • The point of the funeral home comparison was about the logistics of cremation. Whether the death was “normal” or murder, the cremation process is still the same. Since Nazis did use ovens for cremations, a visit to the local funeral home would be educative. How much fuel does it take to cremate a single body? How long does it take? Are there any concerns and complications involved in cremation? etc.

      As for the cost, the Nazis like anyone else would have to acquire and buy resources like say coal or coke so looking into the cost of cremating millions of body does become relevant just in the possibility. I think this is educative.

      Comment by Kageki — April 29, 2012 @ 5:29 am

      • Although it was costly and time-comsuming to burn the bodies, the prisoners who died in the camps were cremated, so as not to contaminate the ground water. When it was no longer possible to cremate the bodies, in places like Dachau, the bodies were buried in mass graves on top of a hill, far from any village or town. Every precaution was taken, by the Germans, to stop the spread of disease during World War II, but in spite of that, there were thousands of prisoners who died of typhus. In a high school class about the Holocaust, the first words spoken to the students should be “TYPHUS, TYPHUS, TYPHUS.” American soldiers did not die of typhus during the war, because America had a vaccine that was effective.

        Comment by furtherglory — April 29, 2012 @ 8:25 am

  2. Dear Gasan Further Glory
    I have no real answer to the questions you raise unless I go back and check again.
    During my visits to the crematorium I found that no duct work appeared to exist from the four cremators to the chimney, also no compressors were ever installed in Dachau during WWII as in other camps
    Coke was used as fuel to create thermal energy in a “generator”, which in the case of Dachau was simply done by the “fire box” with doors for changing coal and opening with simple valves to control the convective draft. What I have read and understand it was almost smoke free and odorless. Thus heat was created and absorbed by the inner bricks that in turn incinerated the victims by radiation emitted from them.

    Changing the subject: The ashes were collected and sieved by inmates to collect the gold fillings of teeth (under strict supervision of the SS) and residue bones crushed by hand or by hammer.(Einsatzgruppen in Mogilev and Smolensk in Russia did have bone crushing machines). You never read or hear anything where or who the gold went to that had accumulated by the time the Americans liberated the Camp.
    Also Inmates that I spoke to, claimed that the first Americans they saw “waren die Schwarzen”, which entered the Camp from an easterly direction, although the Rainbow Division is credited for being the first to arrive.
    Note:The expression “Schwarze”=black in German is not a derogatory expression. The classification the Army had at that time:Colored=”farbich” applies more to a painting than to a human being

    Comment by Herbert Stolpmann — April 28, 2011 @ 4:16 am

  3. Dear Herb and Further Glory,
    Since you both have seen the ovens in person. Where were the burners? I could see only solid brick floor and walls inside the ovens. Where the open fire was coming from?
    I believe that there are fireproof bricks able to withstand temperature up to 1450 C, but, by golly, how much would they cost. Long time ago, I have built a small fireplace myself and bought just 80 standard fireproof bricks and each of them was stamped. I have paid a significant amount money for them. I could only imagine how expensive were those bricks inside the oven.
    I still cannot figure out where all smoke and soot would go. Do you have any ideas?

    Comment by Gasan — April 27, 2011 @ 7:43 pm

  4. Dear Gasan,Furtherglory
    I don’t want to go too deeply into the debate of the suitability of the cremation ovens in Dachau, but they were in my opinion professionally made when I first looked inside them in 1946 and again the last time in 1956.
    The inner bricks are of a special make and are called in German Schamotten-Steine=feuerfester Baustoff, durch Brennen von plastischen Ton und stark gebrannten zerkleinerten, feuerfesten Ton wird bis 1450 Grad Celsius erhalten.(Fire-resistant building bricks, by burning from sculptural? clay and strongly burnt chopped up fire-resistant clay with 1450 degrees centigrade resistance.)
    The inside was very clean and you could still see the initials of the brick-maker on the inner wall on some of the bricks.

    From memory the ovens had standard double brick on the outside and would, as you say not withstand the heat exposed during cremation and was only the final finish.

    Comment by Herbert Stolpmann — April 27, 2011 @ 4:49 am

  5. A while ago, I watched “Die Deutsche Wochenschau” released in 1941, where they showed a stationary military bakeries. The bakers were using long stretchers and the load of bread appeared to be huge.
    The ovens on the picture, you have posted, appear to be too long indeed. They are exactly twice longer than ovens in Auschwitz posted on your website. I haven’t seen it myself, but you probably know the answer.
    Are there two ovens next to each other, or four? What is the rear side of Dachau ovens looks like?
    I have taken a closer look at the pictures on your website and you could notice that the oven is not nearly as deep as it appears from outside. It seems that four ovens are forming one block.

    And again, I don’t see how the ovens were connected to any flues or a chimney. Where would all smoke and stench go, should all of these burning the bodies at the same time. The floor of the ovens appears to be made out of solid bricks. How the cremated body would catch fire? I don’t see any burners inside the ovens, either.

    Comment by Gasan — April 25, 2011 @ 5:03 pm

  6. I have nothing against cremation myself; after all, who cares. Also, I believe in presence of crematoria in the camp as well as the sanitary reason for that.
    Further Glory,
    Besides of spread of disease, you forgot to mention that decomposing bodies near the camp could contaminate the ground waters and consequently the water wells. However, I have problems with the pictures per se. Why don’t we see any flues attached to those “ovens”. The design of them does not suggest, those ovens could withstand temperature of 1800 F. Look at those fireproof bricks. They would be good for a bakery or even a fireplace, but they would not withstand temperature of 1800 F. I have noticed also the relatively thick layers of cement between the bricks. Those will crack fairly soon if the temperature would be raised higher than 800-900 F
    They look like regular bakery ovens to me, exactly the same design as in Auschwitz. I suspect, that the original crematorium ovens either don’t exist anymore, or not being shown to the tourists. The only explanation of it could be: the original ovens looked somewhat different and would rather disproof the huge numbers of burned bodies claimed by holocaust historians.

    Comment by Gasan — April 24, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

    • I have added another photo of the ovens which shows how long the ovens were. Two bodies could be placed in the ovens end to end. If the bodies were emaciated, as many as four bodies could be burned at one time.

      How would ovens this long be used to bake bread? How would you get the bread in and out? The bodies were put in on a stretcher. I can’t imagine baking bread in an oven like this. On my web site, there are old photos of the ovens, which look just like the ones that are there now.

      The old photos of the ovens are at this URL:

      Comment by furtherglory — April 24, 2011 @ 8:37 pm

  7. The Ms. Karla Perez should take her 9th graders to visit the real crematorium in “Newcomer” Funeral Homes located in Toledo, OH.
    The address is:
    (419) 473-0300
    4150 West Laskey Road
    Toledo, OH 43623.
    The cremation price, without a ceremony, is $1,520.00 (plus tax, I assume). The children could also learn about the cremation process, it’s cost, durability of the equipment and also learn about how long it would take to cremate 6 million people at $1,520 per person.

    Comment by Gasan — April 24, 2011 @ 10:20 am

    • There is nothing wrong with cremation. I plan to be cremated myself. The reason for showing photos of the Dachau ovens to students was probably because the Holocaust story includes claims that prisoners were burned alive. These photos were not shown in order to teach the students that the bodies were burned in an attempt to stop the spread of disease, especially the spread of typhus.

      Comment by furtherglory — April 24, 2011 @ 11:28 am

  8. How many Holocaust Remembrance Days are there?
    There are two. International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan 27th and United States Holocaust Remembrance Day in May (it falls on different dates).
    But, we should’t forget to remember the Holocaust every day!

    Philip Eugene Glidden, a concerned parent, wrote a book about his struggle to get mandatory Holocaust education in his community’s public schools defunded on the grounds that it’s Ilya Ehrenberg style Zionist atrocity propaganda masquerading a morality tale. Of course, his warning went unheeded.

    Of course,

    Comment by who+dares+wings — April 23, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

    • I recall my high school English class where we discussed whether Shakespeare actually wrote his books or whether Francis Bacon was really the author. We were encouraged to do some research on this topic — which was hard to do before the Internet existed. In American history class in college, we were taught that there are different viewpoints on why the Civil War was fought. We were assigned to pick a viewpoint and write an essay, defending that viewpoint. I doubt that students today can debate the Holocaust in their English class.

      I just finished watching a show on the History Channel about the history of Russia. It ended with the Revolution in 1917, but the role of the Jews in the revolution was not mentioned. Communism was not mentioned either. Education today allows only one side of history to be told.

      Comment by furtherglory — April 23, 2011 @ 2:04 pm

      • Further Glory,

        I wonder what the Harvard Professor of Literature Stephen Greenblatt would make of your English education. In a letter to the New York Times on 30th August 2005 he wrote

        “The idea that William Shakespeare’s authorship of his plays and poems is a matter of conjecture and the idea that the ‘authorship controversy’ should be taught in the classroom are the exact equivalent of current arguments that ‘intelligent design’ be taught alongside evolution.

        “In both cases an overwhelming scholarly consensus, based on a serious assessment of hard evidence, is challenged by passionately held fantasies whose adherents demand equal time. The demand seems harmless enough until one reflects on its implications. Should claims that the Holocaust did not occur also be made part of the standard curriculum?”

        Greenblatt’s letter angered many who question the Stratfordian authorship but having studied this matter I do find many parallels between Holocaust and Shakespearean authorship questions. In both the evidence for the orthodox position isn’t as extensive as the uninformed lay person may think – although this doesn’t necessarily invalidate it. In both the orthodox position evolves into an industry/religion -‘Bardolatry’ or the ‘Holocaust religion’ (which latest manifestation you have documented in your most recent post) and in both this hype produces a reaction. In both you get some orthodox who realise that the hype can be counter-productive and others who indulge in ad hominem arguments against those who hold a contrary view, either that they are snobs or Jew-haters. Speaking personally, in both I find the unorthodox turn up many interesting points but nonetheless think that the orthodox view, stripped of sensation, is probably closest to the truth.

        Comment by Ethelred — April 24, 2011 @ 4:49 am

        • I have added an update to my post to address the issue of the phrase “the Holocaust did not occur.”

          Comment by furtherglory — April 24, 2011 @ 8:45 am

    • Wow I had no idea there were two. That’s just incredible.

      What exactly is considered Holocaust education anyways. I was taught about it in history class, but it was nothing extravagant. I learned more from my English teacher since he had just visited the Holocaust museum which was recently built at the time. It still was nothing more then a brief chat about it.

      What did bother me ever since was a tiny little paragraph about the Bolshevik revolution in my history textbook. The teacher basically didn’t even talk about it, but for some reason it really bugged me and I wanted to know more. I don’t think there is any coincidence why they don’t teach you that in any detail. The ones responsible for it would be the ones that don’t want you to know about it.

      Comment by Kageki — April 24, 2011 @ 2:10 am

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