I mentioned in a post this morning that I had received a letter form the Anti-Defamation League warning that comments on my blog displayed “insensitivity” and that I should take this opportunity to warn readers about the dangers of “hurtful analogies,” especially in referring to Hitler and the Holocaust.

A reader wonders if he was the one who wrote the comment that was reported as offensive to the Anti-Defamation League:

I think that the comment referred to was mine. I am a teacher in one of the 24 “closed” NYC schools. I went back to look for what I actually wrote but could not find it but I definitely remember reading the comments after that post and being surprised at the reaction.First, let me say that I am also Jewish. Whichever members of my family remained in Poland at the start of the war, were totally wiped out in the camps. I am also a history buff, I read and make analogies. (Obviously, I am a product of a great public education, Thomas Jefferson HS, Brooklyn, NY.) If I offended anyone by my comparisons I am sorry, but I do not withdraw my statements. Let me instead, back them up.

I typically refer to the Holocaust and our situation in 2 ways and I don’t remember which I used in that previous post. First, I believe that our mayor, his flunkies, and all those trying to tear down public education are using what my World History text back in 1962, called the “Big Lie” technique. Tell a lie often enough and boldly enough and even those who know it is a lie will back down. Hitler and Stalin were both masters of the “Big Lie” and used it to secure and maintain their power. The “Big Lie” technique includes scapegoating. Again, as a Jew I am particularly sensitive about scapegoating but now, as a teacher being scapegoated, I think I have have an even better understanding of what my Jewish/Polish/Austrian family and their friends felt as they heard Hitler rant about how the Jews were responsible for every bad thing in post WW I Germany. Yes, I know that there are (currently) no camps to be transported to, but the lie still hurts every time I hear it.

This leads into the second way I draw analogies to the Holocaust. As I said above, my family split just about the time of WW I. One branch came to America, the other branch stayed in Poland and Austria and were decimated. My grandma spoke German as well as Yiddish and English. Even after the holocaust, she proudly referred to our family as Austrian. From her, from other friends and family and from my reading I have learned that most German and Austrian Jews thought of themselves as Germans. Even as the Nuremberg laws went into effect, even as Kristal Nacht destroyed their businesses and homes, they told themselves that they were good Germans, important to the Reich and the minority of hotheads will eventually see this and respect them for the contributions that they made to their country. Many Jews continued this denial until they were packed off to the camps.

A few days before the end of this school year, as we were sitting in the heat grading the Regents exams, my colleagues and I were being told our fate by those involved in this ridiculous hiring system. I know that the ones not hired are not going to camps but the damage to their spirits was still substantial. These are people who have been teaching for 10 even 15 years. One of the main centerpieces of their identity is teacher, right up there with mother, father, Jew, Christian or other identity labels. This central part of their identity was ripped out unjustly and with violence. Not the violence of guns but more like the violence of the Judensau when Jews were forced to bend down and kiss the statue of a pig for only one purpose . . . public humiliation. Teachers were being divided into 2 lines. The “effective” teachers who were staying and the “ineffective” teachers with astonishment and tears in their eyes who could not understand this injustice that had been done to them. As my friends and colleagues were told their fate my thoughts went back to the words of Victor Frankl, a survivor of the camps who said, “the best of us did not survive.”

No, I don’t expect the Brown Shirts to be knocking on my door tonight. In fact, as much as I think teachers are being falsely scapegoated and blamed for things beyond our control, I think the real holocaust (note the lower case) is being carried out against the children of NYC. Under performing students need smaller classes which means more teachers. They also need more experienced teachers. Privatizing education siphons off money that should be going to the children and sends it to overpaid CEOs and shareholders of these charter businesses. Thomas Jefferson saw public education as necessary to maintain a democracy. Wouldn’t it be terrible if after true public education is gone we discover that Jefferson was right.

I could go on about the economics of fascism as taught to me by Mr. Kraft in the 5th grade, Mr. Hudesman in the 7th grade and Mr. Horowitz in the 10th grade (great teachers among other great teachers who I remember fondly) how we can draw parallels to big business today, but this is already a very long post so I shall stop now.