Monday, 21 May 2012

Trivialising the Holocaust

One of the most awful consequences of Graham Badman’s enquiry into home educating was that quite a few home educating parents began quoting Pastor Niemoller; the anti-Nazi church leader who was imprisoned in a concentration camp for years. I am sure that we are all familiar with what he said, which is often phrased in the form of a poem, ‘First they came for the…’ More particularly, reference is made to the Jews,

Then they came for the Jews,
And I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

That anybody could be so hideously crass as to compare the extermination of six million Jews with receiving a circular from the council defies all belief and yet it is still happening. The latest example is on a blog about home education and it may be found here:

The author of the blog, Nikki Harper, was, like all home educators known to Lincolnshire County Council, sent a letter outlining their new policy and it was this which prompted her to compare her suffering to that of Pastor Niemoller and the Jews who died in the Holocaust. It is little wonder that many local authorities regard home educating parents askance when this sort of nonsense is common. Of course, she is not the first home educator to compare herself to Pastor Niemoller, nor I suspect will she be the last. I urge home educating parents to consider how offensive this sort of thing is to Jews and how monumentally tacky it appears to those who are not.


  1. Another quote that may apply;

    The lady doth protest too much, methinks

  2. Nikki Harper says that Niemollers words were/are 'much quoted'..It's obvious the astrologer means in a home ed context.
    The words are there and all related to the Badman enquiry, posted on several forums that have very little or nothing to do with home ed but who started the trend?
    I notice that regular home ed pundit Dave H commented, but never recognised the trivialisation of The Holocaust...
    There's some 16 year old called stop badman, he's spreading that type of misinformation all over youtube as well.
    Someone known as Ember?...seen the name somewhere before, here maybe.
    and others.
    I wonder if this trivialisation of the Holocaust was started by one or more of the online home ed gurus. Perhaps at HESFES during one of the more zealous 'conferences' or at one of those cultish EO camps.
    I wonder how many knew or remember that prominent political Holocaust deniers, The BNP, had plans to support home educators.

  3. Cheap shot really. Just because something was written in the context of the Holocaust doesn't mean that you can't extrapolate further meanings that apply to another situation. I've seen and heard the same poem quoted by those on the political left and even some of a more conservative bent: it's hardly exclusive to home educators.

    Surely those words encourage all people to defend their rights, no matter how seemingly trivial, before repression (again no matter how seemingly trivial) escalates and spreads its reach.

    Unless you want to be really literal about it and that seems to entirely miss the point.

  4. "Surely those words encourage all people to defend their rights, no matter how seemingly trivial, before repression (again no matter how seemingly trivial) escalates and spreads its reach."

    Well, I've always taken those words to be a call for us all to recognise each other's rights - each other's humanity - and to defend each other despite our differences - which isn't quite the same thing.

    I was brought up in a home where we had postcards and posters about the place and Niemoller's words were on one of those. I remember my mother explaining the context and the meaning to me. I don't happen to think they fit the position of home educators here and now but presumably others do.

  5. Some words aren't really appropriate to be cannot be subjected to 'further extrapolation of meaning', to do so devalues their meaning and impact.

    Middle class ideals being challenged and scrutinised is hardly comparable to genocide and war crimes.

  6. Here we go again with people banging on about their 'rights'. There is no real consensus on how many children are educated at home but let’s take a figure of 50,000 which is roughly in the middle of some of the estimates I have seen. Are they all receiving a good education by loving parents? Statistically this can’t be possible. If even one tenth of one percent isn’t then that’s 500 who aren’t being educated properly or have an unhappy home life. Is this ok? Are you happy to accept this to protect your ‘rights’?

    In the article ‘But If You’ve Got Nothing To Hide…’ the author, because her daughter is happy and safe, is happy to take a stance that could put other children at risk. Not only that but the majority of comments on the article are from people in total agreement of her valiant ‘struggle’ against a vile oppressor.

    Ali says ‘Did you know that CfBT guidelines to inspectors caution them that homeschooling parents can be agitated, and under the influence of alcohol?’ Err no they don’t. The guidelines suggest what to do if a situation arises. Ali has changed this from a piece of guidance into a fact. Can you not see what article like this do? They make home educators look like they have something to hide. Simon has pointed out in some of his other posts how home educators like to take things that aren’t quite true or in some cases haven’t even been said and send them on a whirlwind tour of HE blogs where they pick up even more momentum. You need to look at the wider picture and think of more than just your own situation and your own children.

  7. Forgive my slip of the keyboard....... the figure above should be 50

  8. 'Cheap shot really. Just because something was written in the context of the Holocaust doesn't mean that you can't extrapolate further meanings that apply to another situation'

    You may think so. I can tell you now that I know Jews who lost relatives in the Holocaust and are horrified to see this sort of thing. What actually is liable to happen to home edcuators if Lincolnshire County Council, the local authority area where the person who played the Holocaust card lives, have their way? Are they likely to be gassed or sent to concentration camps for refusing monitoring of their children's education? It seems unlikely.

    In fact, according to a Freedom of Information request made by Nikki Harper, Lincolnshire have not even issued any School Attendance Orders against a single home educating family in recent years. So not only will home educating parents not be gassed or imprisoned, no action of any sort is likely to be taken against them.

    If anybody really can't see how offensive it is to compare the deportation and gassing of Jews with the plight of somebody whose local authority has sent her a letter announcing a new policy, then I am sorry.

  9. Having read the blog post in question I have to say, you are trying to pick holes for the sake of it, it seems. The lady used the poem to show why we should stand up for others and their rights/freedoms.

    She was not using Jews names in vain.

    As for her points, yes she was getting her knickers in a twist over something relatively minor and LAs are not always the enemy. However, Lincs CC are not very good at communicating with home educators, nor are they good at understanding Home Ed laws. They are very intrusive and have on numerous occasions made life difficult for those they monitor.
    Whilst she does not have to be monitored, and is breaking no laws, then why should she have to give in to their requests?

  10. 'Whilst she does not have to be monitored, and is breaking no laws, then why should she have to give in to their requests?'

    She doesn't need to give in to their requests. As I said above, this local authority does not issue Scool Attendance Orders to home educating parents, so she really has nothing to fear.


  11. My partner's Jewish. His family escaped East European pogroms slightly ahead of the holocaust, but let's face it, he understands the meaning of persecution. I asked his opinion on this use of the quotation - he saw it as perfectly applicable to any erosion of rights and freedoms. Because that's the point. It was written about the Jewish experience as a warning to other people not to be blase until the knock on the door was for them.

  12. I think the point also is that Jewish persecution began small - many small seemingly small steps over many years, not straight to Concentration Camps. 400 decrees and regulations were brought in between 1933 and 1939, laws like the one preventing the ritual slaughter of animals, for instance.

    I don't think it's a requirement that anyone using this poem must necessarily expect the holocaust to be repeated if whatever they are arguing against goes unchecked. As anonymous above mentions, it's generally taken to be applicable for any erosion of rights and freedoms. It's especially applicable when someone campaigning or arguing in favour of the government/state may later fall foul of that group themselves, as happened to Niemöller. You may have ended your HE journey, but future generations may regret any lack of flexibility in the system that we allow to slip through today, so you may be affected indirectly.

  13. Typical of home ed hysteria..she was repeating the use of Niemoller's words as others had done for dramatic effect.
    She didn't give a damn about offending anyone who had been directly affected by the Holocaust.