Watkins Elementary School in Washington D.C. (YouTube/Screenshot) (YouTube/Screenshot)
Watkins Elementary School

Washington D.C. kids instructed to play digging mass graves, shooting victims; Jewish child made to re-enact Hitler committing suicide.

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

An instructor at a Washington D.C. elementary school was placed on leave on Friday for making a group of third graders re-enact scenes from the Holocaust, the Washington Post reported.

According to an email from MScott Berkowitz, principal of the Catharine Watkins Elementary School in Southeast Washington, a member of the school staff approached the third graders, who were working on a project in the school library. She instructed the children to re-enact scenes from the Holocaust, assigning them different roles. Watkins is a public school.

Berkowitz’s email did not identify who the staff person was. In a subsequent report by local Fox 5 News, a parent said the person responsible was a librarian.

Several children were told to simulate a mass execution, including the digging of a mass grave. Another was instructed to play a train driver taking Jews to the concentration camps. That child then had to act like he was dying in a gas chamber.

A Jewish student was told to play the role of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and re-enact his suicide at the end of the war.

According to the Post, the staff member allegedly made antisemitic comments during the re-enactment.

A parent quoted by the Post said that “when the children asked why the Germans did this, the staff member said it was ‘because the Jews ruined Christmas.'”

Although the instructor told the children not to tell anyone about the re-enactment, the kids told their homeroom teacher and the matter was referred to the D.C. Public Schools’ Comprehensive Alternative Resolution and Equity Team. According to the Post, the staff member is now on leave, pending a school investigation.

One mother told Fox 5 that her daughter and classmates are traumatized. “My husband picked up our child after school and there was a lot of sobbing and crying and distress,” the mother said.

The classmates, she added, “are traumatized. One parent said that their child was worried the teacher in question was hiding at their house. Children are having nightmares and generally having a very hard time,” while the child who played Hitler “is not doing well at all.”

Local reports said the school is providing counseling for the children.

District of Columbia Public Schools issued a statement on Sunday apologizing for the incident.

“Students should never be tasked with acting out any atrocity, especially genocide and war. Additionally, there were allegations of a staff member using hate speech during the lesson, which is unacceptable and not tolerated at any of our schools. This was not an approved lesson plan, and we sincerely apologize to our students and families who were subjected to this incident.”

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