Document suggesting students learn positive aspects of Nazi Germany deleted by Alberta education officials

·3 min read
Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says a document that included 'wrongheaded' and 'horrendous' suggestions about the Nazis has been removed from the ministry website. (Scott Neufeld/CBC  - image credit)
Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says a document that included 'wrongheaded' and 'horrendous' suggestions about the Nazis has been removed from the ministry website. (Scott Neufeld/CBC - image credit)

A document that suggested Alberta students learn about the positive aspects of Nazi Germany has been deleted from the Ministry of Education's website, following criticism from multiple groups.

The document, a set of guidelines for "recognizing diversity and promoting respect," suggested considering whether a given educational resource addressed "both the positive and negative behaviours" of various groups.

"For instance," it read, "if a video details war atrocities committed by the Nazis, does it also point out that before World War II, German government's policies substantially strengthened the country's economy?"

Provincial Education Minister Adriana LaGrange denounced the document on social media Friday, saying she had immediately instructed her department to remove it from all Alberta Education publications.

She said it contained "wrongheaded views" and "horrendous content." She said neither she nor anyone in her office had seen it before Friday morning.

"There is not a 'positive' side to tell of the murderous Nazi regime, as this document wrongfully suggests," LaGrange posted on Twitter.

The document also said some Canadian history resources "dwell on the mistreatment of [First Nations, Métis, and Inuit] Peoples by Caucasians and do not include any examples of non-FNMI individuals or groups actively opposing this type of treatment."

"The resource should attempt to provide some balance by presenting factors causing the behaviour or portraying positive qualities exhibited by members of the group that have acted inappropriately," it said.

Press secretary Nicole Sparrow said the ministry is reviewing all documents on its website, "with a particular focus on longstanding documents that have not been recently reviewed."

On Friday morning, the Jewish Federation of Edmonton and Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies contacted the ministry with concerns about how the document portrayed the Nazi regime.

The regime "dragged the world into the largest global armed conflict in history and in the end it destroyed its own country, so what positive attributes could we possibly find in that?" said Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, director of policy at the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies.

According to Wayback Machine, a digital archive, the Nazis' inclusion in the document predates recent governments. A version from 2008 contained a paragraph with similar wording.

Multiple updates

The document was first created in 1984 but has been revised multiple times.

Sparrow said numerous documents were updated in 2019 to remove references from previous legislation.

"A general review of the document content was not done at that time and at no point did this document come to the minister's office for approval," she said in an email.

Carla Peck, a professor of social studies education at the University of Alberta, said the document did not reflect current standards for teaching history or diversity.

"We want to help them understand the perspectives of people who lived in the past, but it's very important not to engage in 'both sides'-ism, when doing so ends up painting an inaccurate or incomplete history or can do harm to people," she said.

Jewish Federation of Edmonton president Steve Shafir said his organization will be meeting with the ministry to discuss the document, which he said was deeply offensive to Holocaust survivors, their descendents and Edmonton's Jewish community.

"We're not looking to blame anybody for this, but we'd like to ensure that there's some safeguards in place to ensure something like this doesn't happen again," he said.

Shafir said the organization is also advocating for Holocaust education to be included in the new curriculum.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting