US high school apologises for publishing Nazi quote in yearbook

'Make the lie big, keep it simple, keep saying it and eventually they will believe it' is quote from Nazi propaganda chief Dr Joseph Goebbels

Mihir Zaveri
Sunday 17 June 2018 16:45
Joseph Goebbels served as Nazi Germany's minister for propaganda from 1933 to 1945
Joseph Goebbels served as Nazi Germany's minister for propaganda from 1933 to 1945

A Massachusetts school is back in the spotlight following another brush with anti-semitism after it emerged a graduating student had included a Nazi quotation in its leavers' yearbook.

The quote, which reads “Make the lie big, keep it simple, keep saying it and eventually they will believe it,” is attributed to the Third Reich's propaganda supremo, Dr Joseph Goebbels. The quote is not attributed in the yearbook, and appears in black text underneath the photo of the student, who has not been identified.

Despite being vetted by school staff, it was a student who alerted them to the quote's Nazi provenance.

Hundreds of copies of the yearbook had been printed and distributed to students at Andover High School in Massachusetts before the school became aware of the problem and stopped selling the yearbook. The school is now offering to replace the page or cover the quote up with a sticker.

“We are appalled and angered that this quote was submitted, and I ask you to please accept my deepest apologies on behalf of our faculty, staff, and administration for the insertion of these words in the yearbook,” wrote school principal, Philip Conrad, in a letter to parents. “Quoting a racist dictator bent on genocide or his minister of propaganda has no place in our school or our community and it is deeply upsetting to all of us.”

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The incident was not the first time Andover High School has been in the news for a Nazi-related incident. In December, several swastikas were found carved into desks - including some in classes with Jewish teachers.

Mr Conrad said on Friday he did not believe the swastikas and the yearbook quote were linked, but declined to provide more details on the school’s investigation into the swastikas or its outcome.

He added that the school “immediately investigated” after finding out about the Goebbels quote and believed the student took it “from a source which did not identify the author” with no knowledge of its “hateful background”.

Nationally, the number of antisemitic incidents reported annually increased by 57 per cent in 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). It believes the increase is linked to the divisive state of American politics, the emboldening of extremists, and the effects of social media.

A spokeswoman for the Massachusetts department of elementary and secondary education said it does not track the prevalence of hate-related incidents in the state’s public schools.

Robert Goldstein, a rabbi at Temple Emanuel in Andover, praised the school’s response to the controversy.

“I think it’s very important to differentiate between what is an intentional act of racism and anti-semitism and homophobia and something that is somewhat innocent,” Mr Goldstein said.

Robert Trestan, regional director of the ADL in Boston, which is helping the school respond to the episode, described both the swastikas and the yearbook as “educational opportunities” that could help prevent future anti-semitism.

“When you have an incident of anti-semitism or any type of hate or bigotry, you have to look at it and try and make a determination of what’s the motivation behind it,” Mr Trestan said. “They were transparent in sending out this note to the parents, and they also concluded that some remedial action was necessary.”

Mr Trestan said he hoped the school would hold sessions in the future to teach students about anti-semitism.

A spokesman for Andover's schools did not elaborate on whether such sessions would be held, and had no comment on potential changes to yearbook publication procedures. “The district will review its practices and procedures going forward to avoid an incident like this in the future,” he said.

New York Times News Service

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