Third Graders Forced to Reenact the Holocaust


You know, I like to think of myself as immune to antisemitism. I wasn’t raised to think of myself as a jew. That came over time. And because of my background, there are jews who would think I wouldn’t qualify. And because I grew up in Oregon where other jews were scarce, I didn’t encounter much in the way of overt antisemitism as a child. Third to 7th grade when I was in private school a bit, but nothing that gave me lasting scars, old wounds that might be extra sensitive to pain.

And I still live in the PNW and Jewish communities are still relatively small, relatively invisible, and thus the antisemitism (which is, in fact, present) rarely finds overt expression. It’s not because the antisemites are fewer here or not as bad, but just because they take their hegemony for granted and don’t feel the need to flex.

This complicated (and unintentional) distancing from Judaism and jewishness results in a complicated Crip Dyke. I’m far less likely to speak about “the Jewish experience” (whatever that is) or attempt to educate others about Judaism or Jewish communities than I might be, but I’m more likely to get in the face of someone who is being overtly antisemitic. Why? Well, because as I said, I just figure that without as many scars and wounds, I’m the one with just enough jewishness but few enough weaknesses to distract the antisemites from more vulnerable targets.

I really thought that I was… well, not really immune, but someone who could take all the antisemitism short of physical violence and come away grazed. A metaphorical skinned knee or loss of wind was all I thought that antisemitism short of physical violence could inflict. Nothing I couldn’t walk off.

But third graders.

Third graders.

:deep breath:

Third graders.

I thought I was so well armored. But this punched right through.

Third graders.

I’m going to go cry for a while.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    My immediate response to the headline was to think “oh, actually that’s potentially a way to make this terrible event more real and immediate for pupils… could be a good idea?”

    Then I looked up what “third grade” actually means in terms of age (UK doesn’t have the system) – so… eight to nine year olds. Maybe a bit young to really understand and process the events on a meaningful level.

    Then I read the link and … holy fuck.

    [the teacher] cast one student as Adolf Hitler[…] That student is Jewish

    directing them to dig their classmates’ mass graves and simulate shooting the victims

    At the end of the exercise, the child was told to pretend to commit suicide, as Hitler did

    [one child] had to pretend to be on a train to a concentration camp, then act as if he were dying in a gas chamber.

    All of this is, to put it mildly, poor instructional decisions and wildly age-inappropriate.

    But they buried the lead. You get to paragraph SIX before the doozy:

    The instructor allegedly made antisemitic comments during the reenactment. The parent said that when the children asked why the Germans did this, the staff member said it was “because the Jews ruined Christmas.”

    And then the cherry on top:

    The instructor asked students after the reenactment not to tell anyone about it

    I’ll fucking bet she did.

    Annoyingly, you go back to paragraph 1 to find: “The instructor was placed on leave Friday.” No. No paid leave. This HAS to be gross misconduct bringing the school into disrepute, surely an open and shut case for instant dismissal, no do overs, no backsies, no pension. As Marcus Ranum would have it, in the parking lot with a cardboard box with your stuff in it in 15 minutes? Surely? Incredible.

  2. lumipuna says

    Antisemitism is so weird. You (generic) have a society where the existence of Jews is barely noticeable, and most people barely notice the existence of Jews. And then you have some people who are like this teacher. There are bigots and conspiracy theories and contrarian thinkers who all gravitate toward neonazism, which is essentially a cult around hating Jews.

    For many years now, I’ve been extremely online, and savvy to US political discourse in particular. I learn a lot of dogwhistles – in fact, this is how I learned the very concept of political dogwhistle, which is certainly also applicable in my own country’s politics. Only recently I’ve seen some Twitter threads explaining the dynamics behind antisemitism, and it does make certain sense.

    Back in 2018, I briefly discussed politics with a coworker, which was highly unusual as such. He claimed to not believe in politics, because “everything is really run by oligarchs, such as the Rothschilds”. He must’ve seen my eyebrows jump, because he then veered towards suggesting that the “oligarchs” include not primarily Jews but also/mostly Arabs and so on. Perhaps he didn’t expect me to understand the Rothschild reference unless I was a fellow whatever-he-is, since most people here in Finland definitely wouldn’t. Then again, it’s not really uncommon for younger Finns (such as myself and the coworker) to be extremely online in English, on both alt-right and social justice side.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    he then veered towards suggesting that the “oligarchs” include not primarily Jews but also/mostly Arabs and so on

    That’s just stupid. Part of the reason the “Jews run everything” canard even works at all is because a brief inspection of the top echelons of news media, performing arts, politics, the law, banking and business will indeed turn up a disproportionately large number of Jewish people (four of the top nine richest people in the world are of Jewish descent, for instance). There are perfectly reasonable historical explanations for most of this that the dogwhistlers ignore if they even know about them at all. It absolutely will NOT turn up a disproportionately large number of Arabs, or Black people, say, but rather a disproportionately SMALL number of such demographics.

    You’re absolutely right about most people barely noticing their existence. I mean – if you don’t live in Israel, New York or Los Angeles, then statistically, there are hardly any of them anywhere. Favourite stat: in the 2001 census of the UK, Jews were outnumbered three to two by… Jedi. Hating them seems such a bizarre obsession, and to me usually comes off as straightforward jealousy.

  4. Katydid says

    I’m appalled by the whole story above, and most galling of all is the blithe “Jews ruined Christmas”.

    In contrast to this horrific story, back in the 1980s and in a saner world, the children in my part of the USA learned about the Holocaust around age 15 – 16 in “Social Studies” class, around the time we were learning about WWII. We saw pictures in books and a movie filmed at the liberation of a concentration camp, and everyone in class looked horrified and shell-shocked that people could do that to other people.

  5. brucegee1962 says

    I normally read everything that your write, but I almost didn’t click on this one because the title was so depressing. Then I thought, “How bad can it actually be?”

    It was worse.

  6. JM says

    @1 sonofrojblake:

    Annoyingly, you go back to paragraph 1 to find: “The instructor was placed on leave Friday.” No. No paid leave. This HAS to be gross misconduct bringing the school into disrepute, surely an open and shut case for instant dismissal, no do overs, no backsies, no pension.

    One thing teachers do have in the US is strong unions. And like the police unions the teachers have generally engineered the system so that they can’t be fired for anything without going through a review system designed to take a long time. I even understand why the teachers want it that way, it keeps them from being fired because parents are up in arms over something nuts. Most of the time the stupid stuff blows over before the review is finished and the teacher is brought back. It also means when a teacher is grossly guilty they can nurse the system by demanding as many reviews and appeals as possible and stalling every step.

  7. says

    Some of my family members were arrested by the Nazis during the war, suspected of harboring fugitives (“onderduikers” in Dutch; we’re talking about the Netherlands here).
    One of them (an adult) was put in a camp and barely survived the war, dying two years after the liberation. The other one, a teenager at the time, was put to work as forced laborer where he witnessed people who couldn’t work hard enough clubbed to death with a rifle butt because the guards didn’t want to waste bullets on them. He carried the mental scars of that experience for the rest of his life. He told his story *once*, the last time I visited him, and never wanted to speak of it again. Another family member evaded capture but was never able to talk about his experience in the war.

    The only way the survivors could deal with it was to forget it happened, and concentrate on rebuilding their lives. But sometimes (in hindsight) the pain surfaced. And we, their children, never understood what happened.

    Anyone who forces third graders to reenact the holocaust is a sick bastard and deserves to have the book thrown at them.

  8. says

    Immediately placed on leave, but not immediately fired.

    That’s probably a contract thing, and I don’t mind it so much (since good teachers have been fired for bullshit plenty of times) so long as at the end of the formal process the school DOES fire the teacher and makes a public statement about firing the teacher and makes it clear when she seeks a reference that she was fired for cause.

  9. StevoR says

    @9. Raging Bee : Agreed – apart from making documentaries or movies about it a s the one exception.

    Yeah, this is horrendous and just gets worse the more you learn.

  10. sonofrojblake says

    @11: “That’s probably a contract thing,”

    Every employment contract I’ve ever had featured a “gross misconduct /disrepute” clause for INSTANT dismissal.

  11. klatu says

    The instructor asked students after the reenactment not to tell anyone about it

    If there has ever been a red flag, then it’s an adult telling children not to talk about something they made the children do.

    Just yike. Yike McGyke.

    Also… I like complicated Crip Dyke.

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