Oregon Gov. Kate Brown ushered in a new law on Monday that mandates public schools in the state teach students about genocide and the atrocities committed during the Holocaust.
Surrounded by Holocaust survivors, photographs and artifacts, Brown signed the legislation at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, joining the state with nearly a dozen others with similar legislation. It will go into effect in Oregon in the 2020-2021 school year, according to the law’s text.
“Now more than ever we must empower our children with knowledge so together we can stomp out the growing hate in our country,” Brown said in a tweet Monday. “Proud to sign the Holocaust education bill today, mandating Oregon schools to teach our kids about genocide so this history is never forgotten or ignored.”
Senate Bill 664 was inspired by Holocaust survivor Alter Wiener, who spent three years in concentration camps, including the infamous Nazi-run Auschwitz in Poland. Wiener was killed in a traffic accident in December, but before his death, he tirelessly advocated for Holocaust education in schools. His message was later championed by high school student Claire Sarnowski, who advocated for the Oregon legislation at the encouragement of Wiener.
“Alter’s dream was to mandate education which would continue the legacy of the Holocaust and genocides,” Sarnowski said in public testimony, according to a news release from the Oregon House Democrats. “Although he is not here with me today, he prepared me to carry on this mission and to persevere in making this a reality. … We need to ensure these atrocities are never forgotten nor ignored.”
US Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon applauded the legislation’s passage on Twitter Monday.
“Oregon students will now learn in school how hate led to the Holocaust’s horrors. Thanks to the relentless advocacy of my late friend Alter Wiener and the students who continued his fight after he passed. Glad this powerful educational legacy will live on,” the Democrat tweeted.
The push for Holocaust education in schools has expanded in recent years as the United States has seen a rise in anti-Semitic violent attacks including two deadly synagogue attacks which occurred within months of each other. According to the Anti Defamation League, as of February, 11 states have developed laws mandating Holocaust education and other states have recommended including Holocaust education themes in school curriculum.
Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney, a Democrat, and Elise Stefanik, a Republican, both of New York, introduced federal legislation in January that would create a grant program to provide teachers across the US with resources to teach about the Holocaust in their classrooms. The bill has not yet had a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.