At the Tolerance Museum
Teaching tolerance through "Holocaust education" in the public schools is now the law in cities, counties, and states across America. As revisionists are well aware, the standard account of the Jewish Holocaust taught in such courses is more than dubious. So too are the controversial methods, including "role playing" and similar types of psychological manipulation. But does Holocaust education really promote tolerance?
I recently had the opportunity to answer that question for myself when I visited the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. And, since it is our children who are now the chief targets of "Holocaust education," I took my own two sons with me to gauge the museum's impact, and their reactions.
Prior to our visit, I interviewed my sons on things the Museum of Tolerance regards as key issues for elementary school pupils. Their innocence was evident. They had no concept of Jewishness, were aware of no people or nation that was inherently evil, and knew of Hitler and the Nazis only what they had seen in Hollywood movies. They are both fifth-graders who attend a Catholic school in Mexico, and their outlook is entirely appropriate for their ages and life experience.
On a dreary Sunday morning in early March, we joined the long line for the Museum of Tolerance. Germar Rudolf, visiting town to discuss his role as an expert witness in David Irving's upcoming appeal, accompanied us. We waited, along with dozens of school groups, as each visitor was subjected to a security procedure more searching than any airport or border check I've ever experienced.
After a short explanation of how the tour would proceed, we were pointed toward two large doors. Above them, bright red neon signs designated one door "Not-Prejudiced," the other, "Prejudiced." On a nearby video, a rather sarcastic actor challenged the visitors to consider whether or not they were prejudiced. Then each of us was instructed to choose the door that matched our attitudes. As the already humbled mass ambled herd-like toward the "Prejudiced" portal, I opted to try the "Not-Prejudiced" door. It couldn't be opened -- it was fake. So began the brainwashing of yet another group of young Americans.
The first part of the tour is an emotional barrage of film clips and still photos showing racial strife, riots, and suffering Third World children. There may have been a European-American pictured without a Ku Klux Klan robe, but if there was I missed it. It hurt to see my sons viewing such violence and carnage, so I tried to rush them through as quickly as possible.
Then came the feature presentation, the Holocaust exhibit. The tour is self-guided, so there is no one to ask questions of, no one to challenge. The visitors simply go from one grayish display of mannequins and recorded "conversations" to another. All of them "explain" the political environment of 1930s Germany, without the least attempt at balance or accuracy. As Germar dryly commented after the causes of the Second World War had been neatly packed into a three-minute explanation, "They forgot to mention the Russian Revolution."
The third part of the tour is an emotional assault on the psyche. I watched my two sons gulp, their eyes wide, as they viewed the usual photographs of heaps of corpses and listened to recorded descriptions of diesel gassings, viewed photographs "ordinary" Germans said to have helped the Nazis shoot Jewish civilians, black and white films of people carrying all of their worldly belongings, and more. All of these images flash across multiple screens in a darkened room, and the students absorb them like sponges.
Then came the grand finale, a forty-five minute lecture from Elizabeth Mann, a self-professed Holocaust survivor, to a now traumatized roomful of students and teachers. At the end of her monologue I asked Mrs. Mann why she had told so many impressionable young people that the Germans made soap out of Jewish corpses during the Second World War, when even the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum says that wasn't so. She responded that she disagreed with the USHMM. How's that? Differences of opinion are one thing, but arguing for a heinous accusation that has never been substantiated, and is dismissed by virtually all historians as false, is quite another. But this was lost on the students.
I next asked Mrs. Mann why she had told her audience that the "gas chamber" at Auschwitz was a dual-purpose shower room, which could be converted into a homicidal gas chamber with the flip of a switch. The lethal gas, she had told us, came out of the showerheads. When I pointed out that all the "orthodox" Holocaust literature on Auschwitz describes only rooms into which the poison was dropped -- in granules -- through windows or holes in the roof, the room erupted into hisses and boos. Mrs. Mann, saved by the booing, made no response.
Once outside the lecture hall, the students called me over to ask me how I could possibly question such a sweet, elderly woman who had suffered so much. They accused me of calling her a liar. I was happy to explain to them, as a mother to her children, that I hadn't accused Mrs. Mann of lying. I had simply questioned some of the things that she had said. I looked out into the group and could see fear in some of the faces, as if they were being confronted by a lunatic with a gun, and I beseeched them to visit the USHMM's Internet Web site and read for themselves what that museum's authorities say about the soap libel, and about gassing at Auschwitz. When one of the teenagers asked me how I knew that soap wasn't made at Auschwitz, Germar, identifying himself as a chemist, told them calmly that it would have been physically impossible to make soap out of human fat in the buildings at Auschwitz. There had been no facilities for such an undertaking.
With each of our responses the group became more unruly, sarcastic, and intolerant. Rather than ask responsible questions or make clear arguments, at last they resorted to taunting us, calling Germar a Nazi and telling us to "f___ off." They frightened my sons, so we left, but not before they ended their outburst by chasing our van out of the underground parking lot. Their teacher was helpless to stop them, although she tried.
My sons and I learned a lesson at the Museum of Tolerance, a lesson about intolerance -- taxpayer-funded, state-sanctioned intolerance -- not merely of Germans and Christians and European-Americans, but also of intellectual curiosity and reasoned dissent. While I was able to "de-program" my sons with some healthy discussion and simple logic, I'm one of the fortunate few who have heard the revisionist side. If that angry mob of teenagers is indicative of the effect Holocaust studies have on our children, America risks schooling a generation in bigotry.
From The Journal of Historical Review, January/February 2001 (Vol. 20, No. 1), page 7.
About the author
MacKenzie Paine battles intolerance disguised as tolerance from a dusty hilltop in Mexico.