Pupils are encouraged to find evidence that the Holocaust never happened, and then defend their point of view.
The Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet has revealed that the Swedish National Agency for Education is encouraging Swedish teachers to ask their students to find evidence that the systematic murder of some six million Jews during the World War II never took place.
On its website, Swedish National Agency for Education provides advice and support to teachers, including how to teach sensitive topics: “You and your team can use this support when discussing how controversial issues can be used in teaching.”
One of these “controversial” issues, according to the educational authority, is whether the 1969 moon landing was faked. Whether the Holocaust happened is another one.
Teachers are encouraged to divide their students into groups to debate whether the Holocaust happened: “One Group should come up with at least three arguments that the Holocaust did not happen, using facts and information from the internet. They can also ask others what they think and why,” the document says.
The aim of the proposed exercise is, among other things, to teach students the importance of source criticism.
But Svante Weyler, chairman of the Swedish Committee against Antisemitism (SKMA), believes that it sends all the wrong signals: ‘This is absolutely the wrong way to use the Holocaust, for the reason that there are real Holocaust deniers who cannot be equated with the guys who believe that the moon landing did not happen. The Holocaust did happen, it’s not something you can engage in a discussion about,”
Aron Szugalski Verständig, chairman of the Jewish Central Council – the country’s EJC affiliate agrees: “Many reports show that it is very difficult to teach the Holocaust in schools today, which is unacceptable. Of course, it is important that teachers have the right tools to do so. But even if it is well-intentioned, there is a danger in calling the Holocaust controversial. It can never be,” he says.
“It would be a strange situation for someone like me, who is the grandson of Holocaust survivors, to have to take part in a discussion, if one were to take place,” Verständig added.
Commenting on the guidelines, Pernilla Sundström, head of the curriculum department at the Swedish National Agency for Education, chose to answer Aftonbladet’s question by e-mail:
“It would be unfortunate if it were perceived in this way. In this context, the concept of controversial issues should be understood as topics that can create tension in the classroom. Topics where statements can occur that provoke strong reactions, statements that meet resistance, create tension and lead to conflict in the classroom – those that can create controversy. Many teachers testify that the Holocaust can be such a theme precisely because antisemitism is still present in society.”
“The material in question are based on the Council of Europe supporting documents ‘Teaching controversial issues’ and ‘Managing controversy’. Developing a strategy for managing controversy and teaching controversial issues in schools, she added.
“The Swedish National Agency for Education has also developed a collection page on skolverket.se with other materials for teaching about antisemitism and the Holocaust. For example, there are supporting materials from the Living History Forum and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). The collection page was developed in consultation with representatives of Jewish organisations.”
The revelations have come just days after hundreds of leading international politicians and delegates from around 50 countries met in Malmö to discuss the fight antisemitism.
Opening the Forum Prime Minister Stefan Löfvén stressed that Holocaust deniers were a particularly serious problem: “We must never forget the Holocaust. There are too many people who pretend it didn’t happen and too few who know what did happen, and that is why we must continue to fight antisemitism,” Löfven said.