In a Jan. 11 Style section article, Marc Fisher discusses my purported views on Holocaust education, yet he never talked with me about whether his suppositions were correct. Allow me to correct the record.
I reviewed a much earlier version of the "Facing History" curriculum than the one now in use and have been told that later versions were improved. Indeed, Margaret Strom told me in a radio conversation back in 1989 that my review had helped to improve the program. I have not seen the curriculum since the day I last reviewed it, but as I best recall there was no treatment of Nazi ideology in that earlier version. Hence my suggestion.
I do not know how Mr. Fisher can reasonably conclude, even from the fragmentary quotations he uses from eight years ago, that I oppose Holocaust education. As the article itself makes clear, "Facing History" was not simply Holocaust education, but treated various kinds of genocide. One might argue that the enormity of the evil of the Holocaust was reduced in significance by comparing it to lynchings in the South and America in Vietnam, as I recall the program did.
It is true that the program I reviewed betrayed a left-wing political bias that I thought inappropriate. But, contra Irene Shur, I also objected to the educational pedagogy it employed. This is something on which reasonable people can differ, but I believe it is better to teach young students, as I understand the Israelis do, that "you can never be a Nazi, and you can never be hurt by a Nazi," rather than to suggest the possibility that the student could be like the Nazis, as Deborah Lipstadt concedes the program does.
I also believe students should be taught the truth about human nature, "that all men are created equal" and have natural rights that others are bound to respect, in contradiction to the evil and errant views of National Socialism and other ideologies of tyranny, as a way of inoculating them against evil.
Mr. Fisher says that the reference to "balance" in my review meant that I would give equal moral weight to the Nazis. The truth is the use of this word was generated by the Education Department's review instrument, which required reviewers to rate programs for balance. How, indeed, do you balance the Holocaust, I was intending to say. Bring in the Nazis, the KKK? But I have found that due weight is not given in Washington to sleight of academic hand.
Deborah Lipstadt interprets my unfortunately phrased remarks in the way I am afraid many have: as suggesting that the Holocaust deniers' view of the Holocaust be given a hearing. At the time I was asked to review "Facing History" by the Department of Education, I did not know what "Holocaust revisionism" was nor even that it existed. This whole pathology was outside my experience. I was a lay reviewer, which meant I was asked to review it as a mother and a citizen rather than as a scholar in the field. My review presupposes the existence and the evil of the Holocaust, an assumption universal in academic discourse. The reference to the "Nazi point of view," unfortunately couched in the value-free jargon of social science that I have since abandoned, was meant to refer only to Nazi ideology.
I apologize, especially to Holocaust survivors and their families, for any aid and comfort that my leaked remarks and the publicity attending them unintentionally might have given to the deluded crazies of revisionism and for any anxiety that one of their ilk might possibly have been appointed as House historian, howev\er preposterous it is on its face.
I also, however, believe that apologies are due to these same survivors, and to me, by those who used the Holocaust, and fears of the Holocaust, to cheapen it in a dirty political game. I do not believe that any of the chief players in the events that smeared me really believed I was antisemitic or even a Holocaust revisionist. Indeed, these attacks only conceal the fact that the serious antisemitism in our day is on the left, and the left does not dare acknowledge it. I intend to seek these apologies, either through reconciliation or political pressure.
To summarize: How best to teach about the Holocaust so that it never happens again? Apart from reading and viewing the outstanding mainstream histories, novels and movies, I agree with the late Lucy Davidowicz: in a nonpolitical way, the most absolute way, by appealing to the highest authority, by teaching the commandment of God: Thou shalt not murder. CHRISTINA F. JEFFREY Arlington