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June 13, 2011 | Volume 86, Number 17

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– Necrology

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COMMENTARY

‘It slipped through’

Most adults and probably most teenagers who are about to graduate from high school have heard of the Holocaust. In fact, Richmond is the site of the Virginia Holocaust Museum whose exhibit depicts and explains the horrible events in which millions of Jews and many referred to as righteous Gentiles were killed.

If there is any one name associated with that tragic period of history known as the Holocaust, it would likely be Adolph Hitler. He came to power in Germany in 1933 and was the chief architect of a plan in which many Jews were brutally taken from their homes and sent to die in concentration camps. In all, it is said that six million Jews perished.

Yet with this knowledge a senior at Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake chose to use the quote “The more the merrier” which he attributes to Adolph Hitler to appear by his name and photo in the high school yearbook. His fellow graduates and anyone else who views the yearbook will conjecture that this young man sees Hitler as the source for a quote he would like others to remember him by.

The quote in itself is harmless, but why was it necessary to cite Hitler as the source?

That any high school student would choose to do such a thing is in poor taste, but even more remarkable is the fact that fellow students and adult advisers on the yearbook allowed it to be published.

“It slipped through” is the way Tom Cupitt, spokesman for the Chesapeake school, told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Virginia Beach.

Wasn’t anyone proofreading the yearbook’s contents? If the answer to that is yes, why did any of these people not find it in any way offensive?

How did they think Jewish people might react? There are a lot of questions which need a better answer than “it slipped through.”

The whole issue came to light when Sydney Brafman, a senior in Oscar Smith’s International Baccalaureate program, received the yearbook at the senior picnic and other students told her about the quote. Obviously it made a negative impact on them to tell a Jewish student about it. Both Sydney’s grandparents are survivors of the Holocaust. The grandfather was in Auschwitz and the grandmother escaped from another concentration camp when it was bombed.

“My daughter is Jewish,” Sydney’s mother is quoted in the Virginian-Pilot. “This is so offensive to us, I can’t tell you how upset we are.”

Mr. Cupitt would not say whether the young man would be disciplined by the school.

One suggestion might be that the graduating senior, accompanied by his parents, visit the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond. Here they would learn the horrors of the Holocaust and the lessons that should be learned.

Students at Oscar Smith High School who are upset might organize a protest and return their yearbook to the principal’s office, piling them up one by one.

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