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February 29, 2000

High school student wants alternative views of Holocaust taught

Associated Press Writer

PITTSBURGH (AP) - High school class president Robbie Joswiak wants revisionist views of the Holocaust taught in his Beaver County school district and that, said one teacher, is proof enough that students are not receiving enough information about Nazi Germany.

In a recent e-mail message to teacher Stephanie Mazzei, the high school senior argued that the number of European Jews killed in Nazi Germany may have been 1.1 million - not the six million deaths that are usually cited.

Mazzei, who teaches gifted students and lectures on the Holocaust, said Joswiak's views are proof that the Riverside Beaver County School District, with 2,067 students, needs to expand its Nazi-era classes.

"He told me what I was teaching was, in effect, folklore," said Mazzei, who has been a teacher in the district for 30 years. "That's what alarmed me."

Mazzei said Joswiak was familiar with her teachings, but had never attended one of her seminars, which supplement the district's World War II studies. Joswiak told Mazzei that he'd read 13 books about the Holocaust, three of which challenged conventional information about the Nazi death camps.

Joswiak cited works by British historian David Irving as a reason why other views of the Holocaust should be taught. Irving, 62, disputes the number and manner of Jewish deaths in concentration camps.

But Nazi-era expert Simon Reich dismissed Irving's arguments.

"There is essentially no historical data in support of his claims," Reich, a University of Pittsburgh public policy professor, said Monday. "He perverts the notion that history provides you with a set of objective facts."

Citing Joswiak's e-mail message, Mazzei has urged the Riverside School Board to expand its teaching about the Holocaust, which currently does not reach every student. Joswiak, who has studied the Nazi era in Germany and Israel, offered to conduct more seminars, she said.

"The district supports what she is teaching," said Superintendent Mark King. "As far as we're concerned, the matter is closed."

Joswiak's father, Robert H. Joswiak, said his son would not be available to comment. But he said he supported his son's efforts.

"Obviously there are forces at work today that are deliberately excluding this knowledge," Joswiak said. "What kind of education is this when it's one-sided?"

The elder Joswiak said Irving's beliefs should be presented with conventional Holocaust teachings. Mazzei said those beliefs demonstrate the importance of teaching what happened in Nazi Germany. "This story needs to be told," said Mazzei, "exactly what happened and why."

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