The legislature’s Education Committee Wednesday conducted a public hearing on a Holocaust education bill that state Senator Toni Boucher (R-26) proposed with the support of the committee’s leadership and the Jewish Federation of Connecticut. The Senate Bill 452, An Act Concerning The Inclusion Of Holocaust And Genocide Education And Awareness In The Social Studies Curriculum, would require all Connecticut high schools to include Holocaust and genocide education as part of the social studies curriculum.

“Too many of our young people do not have appropriate knowledge of the Holocaust and do not understand how symbols like swastikas can be so hurtful and damaging,” Boucher said.

As co-chair of the Education Committee, Boucher said she was compelled to introduce the legislation because of the significant increase in anti-Semitic and racist graffiti and incidents in Connecticut and across the country.

“Alarmingly, the number of anti-Semitic incidents has doubled in the last year. In addition, hate groups have been targeting young people for indoctrination because of their malleability and lack of knowledge about such important historical events,” Boucher said. “I truly believe that if our students are taught about the horrors of the Holocaust and of genocides throughout history, they would not be as susceptible to the hate and misinformation being spread.”

Boucher said throughout history and particularly during World War II, racists and hate groups dehumanize their targets to make their prejudice socially acceptable. What starts as thoughts and comments, she said, slowly advances to physical violence and eventually murder, which the perpetrators justify by reasoning that the targets are lesser beings that they blame for the problems in the world.

“We have to nip this in the bud so that racist and hateful ideas are never able to take root and grow in our society. After World War II, the world saw the extent the Nazis went to in their effort to eradicate people of any race, ethnicity, or persuasion that did not fit into their idea of the perfect society. We must teach our young people why the world said, ‘Never again.’ We must educate them to honor that promise.”

The Education Committee must vote on SB 452 this month before it can be moved for a vote by the Senate and House.

“The compelling testimony and personal stories by Holocaust survivors were key in today’s public hearing,” Boucher added. “As many of the last remaining eye witnesses pass on, it is imperative that their experiences are recorded and used to educate the next generation so that this sad chapter in world history is never repeated.”

Boucher represents the communities of Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.