Government acts over Holocaust e-mail

LONDON Mon Feb 4, 2008 7:35pm GMT

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain took the unusual step on Monday of denouncing a hoax e-mail claiming that the government has scrapped teaching of the Holocaust in schools because it might offend Muslims.

Ed Balls, the secretary of state for children, schools and families, issued a statement, sent to media and embassies around the world, taking issue with the viral e-mail.

"I want to put an end once and for all to the myth that the Holocaust is not being taught in schools or is being removed from the curriculum," Balls said.

"I am pleased to confirm that this is absolutely not the case. We are clear that there are certain non-negotiable subjects, which are protected in schools; one of those is the Holocaust.

"The Holocaust was one of the most horrific and profound events in world history and I want every young person to have an understanding of it."

The Holocaust, the systematic annihilation of six million Jews by Nazi Germany, is compulsory teaching in all secondary schools in Britain for students between the ages of 11 and 14.

As well as in history classes, the subject is covered in part or in whole in English, politics and citizenship studies.

It is not clear how or where the hoax e-mail originated.

In a separate initiative announced on the same day, Britain's minister for schools announced that two pupils from every sixth form and college in the country would be able to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.

The educational trips will be funded with the help of 4.65 million pounds from the Holocaust Educational Trust.

Pupils will hear testimony from a survivor of the notorious death camp and be encouraged to speak about their visit to other schoolchildren through a variety of activities and programmes.

"Not only do young people visit the site of one of history's greatest atrocities, but they come back inspired to make a difference today," Balls added.

"The incredible work they undertake in their communities to teach others about the dangers of prejudice and discrimination bears witness to this."

(Reporting by Avril Ormsby; Editing by Luke Baker)

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