L.D. 1050, a bill that Sen. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, is shepherding through the Legislature, would require public school students to learn about the extermination of 6 million European Jews during World War II by the German Nazis.

So that students might “grasp the consequences of ignoring those who hate,” in the words of the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education, the Maine bill should follow the example of New York state, New Jersey and others and expand its Holocaust legislation to include the Irish Famine in the 19th century, when 1 million died.

Scholars, politicians and educators might argue who is entitled to brand a particular systematic killing of millions as a “Holocaust.” But few would argue that the exodus from Ireland attests to “the odor of racial hatred surrounding the emigrant’s treatment” and “bears more resemblance to the slave trade or the boxcars of the Holocaust than to the routine crossings of a later age,” according to Bob Scally in “The End of Hidden Ireland.”

The New York human rights curriculum includes study of the European Holocaust of World War II, ‘‘the mass starvation of Ireland from 1845 to 1850,” slavery in the Americas and the Atlantic slave trade.

The profile of Maine includes the imprint of famine Irish who fled from starvation and oppression. In today’s upsurge of assaults on so many segments of our tempest-tossed huddled society, students can profit enormously from a study of the social, political and economic conditions that create a climate of fear, repression and death.

The teaching of the Holocaust including the Irish Famine and other genocides will help our students form a conscience that affirms that our state’s ethnic, religious and cultural diversity remains one of its strengths.

Bob Lyons


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