Holocaust teaching controversy of 2007
The Holocaust teaching controversy of 2007 was a hoax sparked by sensationalist claims mainly circulated in emails which stated that teaching of the Holocaust had been banned in British schools because of fears that this could offend Muslim pupils. The claims contained in the emails were false but inspired by real events.
The emails alleged that the ban had been put in place because of fears that such teaching could "offend" Muslim pupils, claiming that "the Muslim population" denied the Holocaust. On 2 April 2007, the Daily Mail started the story on the subject with "Schools [plural, contrary to the findings of the report] are dropping the Holocaust from history lessons to avoid offending Muslim pupils, a Government backed study has revealed."
Following this, the tabloid New York Post ran an article headlined "U.K. SCHOOLS' SICKENING SILENCE" in which the writer asserted the statement "may be the scariest sentence I ever read". The main medium for the claims, however, was a chain email. The emails led some to email the BBC enquiring as to whether the facts contained in the email were true. In fact teaching of the Holocaust is mandatory in English schools and has not been banned elsewhere in the United Kingdom.
After email messages continued to circulate into 2008 the British government Schools Secretary Ed Balls was forced to write to every Embassy in the country to refute the allegation that schools had banned or were reluctant to teach about the Holocaust.
The most popular version of the email reads as thus:
Recently, this week, UK removed The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it "offended" the Muslim population which claims it never occurred. This is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving into it.
It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended. This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the six million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated with the German and Russia [sic] peoples looking the other way!
Now, more than ever, with Iran , among others, claiming the Holocaust to be "a myth," it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets.
This e-mail is intended to reach 40 million people worldwide!
Join us and be a link in the memorial chain and help us distribute it around the world. Please send this e-mail to 10 people you know and ask them to continue the memorial chain.
Please don't just delete it. It will only take you a minute to pass this along - Thanks!
The emails were based upon a wide-ranging report which the Department for Education and Skills commissioned from the Historical Association, a group which promotes the study of history. This report suggested that teachers may avoid emotive and controversial periods of history, but did not recommend that they do. The report went on to give an example of "a northern city" in which a history department had "recently avoided selecting the Holocaust as a topic for GCSE coursework for fear of confronting anti-Semitic sentiment and Holocaust denial among some Muslim pupils"; it was also noted that, in another school, the Holocaust had been taught in spite of "anti-Semitic sentiment among some pupils" but that study of the Crusades had been avoided because of the contrast to the stories with which Muslim pupils were raised. In no case was it suggested that avoiding causing offence to Holocaust deniers should be an aim.
- "Holocaust 'ban' e-mail confusion". BBC News. 17 April 2007. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
- Clark, Laura (2 April 2007). "Teachers drop the Holocaust to avoid offending Muslims". Mail Online.
- Rubin, Barry (April 8, 2007). "U.K. SCHOOLS' SICKENING SILENCE". New York Post.
- "UK government acts on hoax e-mail". BBC News. 4 February 2008. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
- Urban Legends Reference Pages: Holocaust Teaching Ban
- "The T.E.A.C.H. report: Teaching Emotive and Controversial History 3-19" (PDF). The Historical Association. 2007. Archived from the original (pdf) on 2013-04-01. Retrieved 2008-02-27.
- BBC news article on the story
- An example of the content of the email