NH Implements Holocaust and Genocide Education Mandate

Press Release from NH State Senator Jay Kahn

The NH state legislature established in 2020 a requirement that an adequate education incorporate “knowledge of civics and government, economics, geography, history, and Holocaust and genocide education to enable student to participate in the democratic process and to make informed choices as responsible citizens.” (RSA 193-E:2)  That legislation also established a Commission on Holocaust and Genocide Education “to study best practices for teaching students how intolerance, bigotry, antisemitism, and national, ethnic, racial, or religious hatred and discrimination have evolved in the past, and can evolve into mass violence and genocide, such as the Holocaust.” (RSA 193-E:2-f)

Since 2020, the Commission has provided input to the NH Board of Education as they moved forward with rules for public schools to incorporate Holocaust and genocide education into their curriculum.   Final approval of Ed. Rules 306:49 occurred at the Joint Legislative Commission on Administrative Rules meeting of May 20, 2022.  NH was the 14th state to enact a statute for Holocaust and genocide education. 

Chairman of the Commission on Holocaust and Genocide Education, State Senator Jay Kahn of Keene stated, “This is a significant milestone for NH.  NH students will gain an understanding of crimes against humanity through historical documentation and current events in Ukraine, China, Somalia, and Myanmar.  We find context throughout global history that deepens our understanding of the occurrence of genocide.  History documents occurrences of people losing their dignity, human rights, and their lives when a dominant group acts intentionally and systematically to isolate and annihilate portions of their population.  These are tragedies we can prevent if we observe the warning signs and are prepared to intercede.”

The Commission is comprised of college and school educators, prominent clergy and community leaders with understandings of past genocides recognized by the USA and United Nations.  Kati Preston, who is a Governor’s appointee to the Commission, is the only Holocaust survivor of a Hungarian Jewish family of 28 people.  Ms. Preston offered her feelings on the new rules.  “The day Governor Sununu signed the law requiring New Hampshire schools to teach Holocaust and genocides education in every school, I felt my dead family’s hands on my shoulder. It means so much to me, because I have spoken in hundreds of schools and colleges about my childhood, and realized how important it is to teach and educate young people who in many instances had little or no knowledge about the Holocaust. Education is the only way to ensure that such human tragedies do not happen again.  This generation is so ready to embrace any new ideas and information–they will mend our world.”

Commission member Ashley Harbel, Assistant Principal at Timberlane Regional High School,

stated, “The Holocaust and genocide education rules passed by the NH Board of Education give NH educators a unique opportunity to teach students about the atrocities of the past in order to help them make a better future. Through learning about the Holocaust and other genocides, our students will be able to see signs of hate and understand the progression of how hate can turn into something bigger. This is an important piece of Holocaust and genocide studies – to understand the past so we can say “never again” and make it true.”

Evan Czyzowski, Commission member and teacher of humanities at Bedford High School, stated “Students recognize the importance and gravity of learning about such a weighty topic as genocide because they see that it is not only an historical event of the past, but something that continues to happen throughout the world. It is hopeful to note that when students learn about genocide they ask what we can do to prevent it.”

It is expected that all school districts will begin incorporating Holocaust and genocide education into courses in the fall of 2022.  Commission members will be discussing implementation at an upcoming meeting of NH School Administrators.  The Commission has also identified existing free educational resources available to schools and educators; those can be accessed from the Keene State College Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies’s website https://www.keene.edu/academics/ah/cchgs/education/nh-commission/.  Additionally, the Cohen Center will be offering intensive workshops for NH educators, one of which will begin in mid-July on the Keene State College campus.