A D.C. school librarian who forced third-graders to dig mass graves and pretend to die in a bizarre reenactment of the Holocaust has been put on leave as the district investigates what happened. The librarian even forced a Jewish student to play the role of Adolf Hitler and, when students asked why the Holocaust happened, the librarian said it was “because the Jews ruined Christmas.”
“I want to acknowledge the gravity of this poor instructional decision, as students should never be tasked to act out or portray any atrocity, especially genocide, war or murder,” said Watkins Elementary School Principal MScott Berkowitz in an email to parents obtained by the Washington Post. “In no way is this lesson supported by the school’s leadership.”
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This past Friday, a group of third-graders was in the school library doing research for a school project when a librarian, identified by the New York Times as Kimberlynn Jurkowski, told them to stop working on that and reenact the Holocaust with her.
She gave the students specific roles, including one who was told to be Hitler. That student is Jewish, according to the parent of a student who was there. At the end of the reenactment, they were told to pretend to kill themselves, like Hitler.
Another parent said that their son was told to pretend to be on a train on his way to a concentration camp. Later, he was told to pretend he was dying in a gas chamber.
Other students were made to pretend to dig mass graves and shoot their classmates who were playing the roles of Jewish people.
The children asked why the Germans did this, and Jurkowski told them “because the Jews ruined Christmas,” according to one parent.
Jurkowski told the kids not to tell anyone about the reenactment. Of course, they immediately told their homeroom teacher.
The incident has been reported to the D.C. Public Schools Comprehensive Alternative Resolution and Equity Team.
“This was not an approved lesson plan, and we sincerely apologize to our students and families who were subjected to this incident,” a spokesperson for the district said in a statement.
Berkowitz said that all the students in that class have been working with the school’s mental health response team.