New Nebraska Bill Requiring Holocaust Education Might Exclude Armenian Genocide

Education of the traumatic events of 1915 has long been inherent to the Armenian experience. For most Armenians, their “sources” to these tragedies are first or second-hand accounts from relatives who escaped (and mournful remembrances about ones who never did). Their “textbooks” consist of handwritten letters. Their “teachers” are their family. In short, “genocide education” doesn’t come from the state; it’s just plain family history.

But today, as the survivors of horrors like the holocaust and the Armenian Genocide get older and fewer, American schools are beginning to see the value of formalizing the histories, from casual settings like a living room, to more formal ones like a classroom.

Interest in “genocide education,” as it has come to be called, appears to be growing. Currently, 11 states are required by law to teach about the Holocaust, and more are showing interest each year. As interest increases, however, debates over what constitutes genocide are becoming increasingly political. Only 15 states currently consider the Armenian Genocide as a primary example. Massachusetts is one of them.

The Nebraska State Capitol building, Lincoln, Neb. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Tony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Nebraska is the latest state to reconsider its education requirements, as fears of losing first hand stories and personal accounts of genocide survivors heighten. In March, State Senator Sara Howard from Omaha introduced Legislative Bill 640, which would “include study relative to the Holocaust and other genocides in provisions relating to multicultural education.” Howard told the Armenian Weekly she spearheaded the bill after discovering that not all students learn about the Holocaust, citing a national survey that found two-thirds of young adults couldn’t identify what Auschwitz was. The bill has received both support and pushback from the Nebraska community.

Bedross Der Matossian, associate professor of history at the University of Nebraska, is one of the supporters, writing that “the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, the other instances of genocide mentioned in LB 640, as well as others that are not mentioned, need to be taught in our schools and need to be called by what they are.” Der Matossian noted the importance of this education, “so that efforts to purge the historical record under pressure from a foreign government can be met with facts and rejected.” Robert Nefsky, a Nebraskan lawyer and descendant of Armenian genocide survivors also noted the significance of educating students. He told the Lincoln Journal Star, “Denial of the Armenian genocide is in itself one of the best arguments for comprehensive and accurate education on what actually happened.” Nefsky added, “In 1939, at the time of his invasion of Poland, Hitler is reported to have said, ‘Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?’ We need the answer to be Nebraska’s high school students.”

Opposition from Turkish residents in Nebraska has been similarly vocal. Advisor to the University of Nebraska’s Turkish Student Association, Ayse Kilic, told the Lincoln Star Journal, “We feel that [it] has been constructed without sufficient research,” and added that the UN does not recognize the Armenian Genocide. She says she doesn’t want Nebraska’s K-12 students to be “inappropriately impacted against the Turkish culture.” In response to the objections, Howard’s bill offered an amendment that would allow certain instances of genocide, including Armenians, to be eliminated from curricula.

As amended, Howard told the Armenian Weekly that LB 640 will include the multicultural study of “the Holocaust and other acts of genocide.” It “does not specifically include or exclude any other acts of genocide that have occurred in history,” she said.

Armenian genocide recognition is not unheard of in Nebraska. Fifteen years ago, then Governor Mike Johanns issued a proclamation recognizing April 23 as Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. Nebraskan Armenians and members of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Education Committee also noted Nebraska’s support of the Armenian refugees during the genocide, when Nebraskan farmers “donated an impressive 413 carloads of corn with an additional contribution of $60,000 (approximately $777,000 in today’s dollars) for the purchase of additional corn at market price” for the Corn Campaign of 1921. They questioned why this support would stop now and suspected pressure from Turkish officials.

Carolina Gazal

Carolina Gazal

Intern
Carolina Gazal is an English and Communications major at Boston College. She is from Queens, New York and is currently an intern at the Armenian Weekly.

9 Comments

  1. While reading this most newsworthy article, I am reminded what is the value of genocide recognition
    if bills before a state legislature subject to such political pressure. It is absurd to “eliminate” the Armenian
    Genocide from education when the state recognizes the event. Just what is the criteria for “other genocides”?
    This is embarrassing and hopefully will be corrected. If the Turkish lobbyist is concerned about “ inappropriate
    impact”, then they should reconcile with their past…. of make foolish attempt to deny their history. Current
    behavior by Turkey against NATO, the US and our Kurdish allies are clear examples of issues that
    “impact” their image that are self-imposed.

    • The Armenian ıssue has not been decided by an authorized court, in line with th UN Genocide Convention – 1948. All the recognitions are poliitical so far. In fact , Ottoman Government relocate its Armenian citizens from the Eastern battlefield to a safe part of the country. During relocations some unfortunate events happened. The ECHR’ s 2015 decision states ” relocation does not mean genocide”. My advise to the Armenian side; If you have real historic documents please go to an authıorized international court and try to receive a formal reconition. Only that way, Armenian side could be release from a slander position…

  2. The other risk is that Holocaust recognition could become an excuse for a bill banning criticism of Israel. An ancestrally Palestinian teacher in Texas sued after they fired her for refusing to sign a pledge not to promote the BDS movement, and a judge struck down the law, declaring it unconstitutional.

  3. The Armenian ıssue has not been decided by an authorized court, in line with th UN Genocide Convention – 1948. All the recognitions are poliitical so far. In fact , Ottoman Government relocate its Armenian citizens from the Eastern battlefield to a safe part of the country. During relocations some unfortunate events happened. The ECHR’ s 2015 decision states ” relocation does not mean genocide”. My advise to the Armenian side; If you have real historic documents please go to an authıorized international court and try to receive a formal reconition. Only that way, Armenian side could be release from a slander position…

  4. At first I’d like to enlight another side of the Holocaust where some Armenians are also included: Many Armenian volunteers were welcomed by the Nazi Propaganda Minister (even Dr.) Paul Jozeph Goebbels in Berlin in 1943 and they were assigned by him with a task to form the Nazi propaganda arm in the Middle East, and these Armenians had vowed to him that they would fulfill their said task with full loyalty, as a result they associated (became a partner with) the genocide executed by the Nazi army against the innocent Jewish people including the women and babies (the Holocaust) during the WW-II. So, regarding the Holocaust Education, this issue also supposed to be considered.
    Furthemore, concerning the so-call Armenian genocide, I strongly recommend the readers to read and watch these histocal records to see the real past without setpping into a trap with taint evidences:
    http://www.tallarmeniantale.com/russian-diary.htm ,
    http://irevanaz.com/rus/index.php?newsid=274 ,
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIRzPxafeXQ&t=10s
    Moreover, concernign the “genocide education”, I strongly suggest the Nebraska State Officials to include “Khojaly Massacre” to the “genocide education” bill as it was executed by the Armenian army by violating every universal law for human rights by carrying out a severe genocide in Nagorno-Karabakh before the eyes of all the world “just before entering the 21. century (in 1992)” by invading the Azerbaijani land by killing hundreds of people, women and babies inhumanly! So that, 16 state parliaments in the USA have accepted this massacre as GENOCIDE, and it has been officially recorded by the Human Rights Watch, by the resolution number 822 of the UN Security Council, by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, by the European Court of Human Rights (22nd April 2010) and by the Organization for Security and Co-Operation Europe Minsk Group.
    Remembrance of the past tragedies will serve as a lesson for our time, and the history will always remember the ones with praise who really serve for the peace and friendship of the future generations while it is condemning the ones who act for raising hatred flames with some colorable stories with unreal past events.

    • You forgot to mention our “shared pain” in your fabricated denial of the genocide(s) committed against the indigenous
      Christians of your stolen and pathetic country.
      After all, murdering, raping, torturing, starving and defiling innocent women, children and the aged day after day
      must have been a very stressful experience for your
      soldiers and death squads but nobody’s “feeling your pain”
      because you’re actually proud of your savagery and sadistic violence.
      Your attempt to exterminate the Armenians (and nearly all other
      indigenous people) failed.
      In an ironic twist and because of your propensity for rape, kidnapping as well as forced conversions, only about 16-17% of you can actually call yourselves “Turks” anymore due to the “mixed blood” of millions of your victims.
      Your violence and hatred resulted in the “suicide” and dilution of your very own DNA.
      Even the Nazis knew better than to interbreed with
      their victims.
      You should be ashamed of yourself but everyone knows
      through your blood-soaked violent history-you have no shame or honor.
      Now go crawl back into your AKP “grey wolf” cave.

  5. Historians have the actual KILLING ORDERS issued by the Turks.

    This is proven.

    Nothing more is needed.

    Even knowledgeable Turks know this though most will not acknowledge it publicly.

    I don’t think even Holocaust scholars have such solid proof.

    You Turkish deniers of the Armenian Genocide look more ridiculous then you ever did, and, believe me, that’s pretty ridiculous.

  6. @ Serkan
    And I strongly suggest the Nebraska State Officials to remember Erdogans savage bodyguards ,” for violating every universal law for human rights”, for attacking, kicking, punching, and stomping peaceful US citizen protesters on the streets of DC on May 16, 2017.

  7. Orhan Tan, ” Ottoman Government relocated its Armenian citizens from Eastern battlefield to a safe part of the country”. Sounds like a Tall Turkish Fairy Tale. What happened to the Armenians was a deliberate attempt to exterminate a whole nation. IT WAS A GENOCIDE. As a matter of fact,The perpetrators, Talaat, Enver ,and Jemal received widespread condemnation across the world for their leading role in the Armenian Genocide. All three were found guilty of massacre of Armenians and sentenced to death in absentia by the Turkish court martial on July 5, 1919 one hundred years ago come this July. People like yourselves are heavily
    brainwashed and easily distort the truth.

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