SAO PAULO – A city in southern Brazil that has suffered a series of neo-Nazi incidents is requiring all public schools to teach about the Holocaust.
The new law, the first of its kind in Brazil, will go into effect next year in all of Porto Alegre's 96 public schools, where some 60,000 students study, the city government's website said Tuesday.
The author of the law, Alderman Valter Nagelstein said Tuesday that including the Holocaust in the school curriculum will help prevent it from happening again, and said he hopes it also will curb "the kind of neo-Nazi incidents we have seen in the past."
Porto Alegre's Jewish community of close to 15,000 has often been targeted by skinhead groups and neo-Nazis who have desecrated cemeteries and synagogues. Police last year disrupted what they said was a plot to bomb at least two synagogues in the city.
The city's Roman Catholic Archbishop Dadeus Grings also caused a stir when he told a local magazine that "more Catholics than Jews died in the Holocaust, but this isn't known because the Jews control the world's media."
After the uproar, Grings promised to improve dialogue with Jewish leaders, to reject any denial of the Jewish death toll in the Holocaust and to repudiate the spread of ideas that could provoke anti-Semitism.
Historians say that about 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust, the Nazi effort to exterminate the Jewish people in Europe. Several million other people, including Gypsies, Russians, Poles, religious and political opponents, homosexuals and the disabled were systematically killed as well by Adolf Hitler's regime in Germany.
"The Holocaust was one of the worst massacres in mankind's history, yet many youths and teachers know nothing about it," Nagelstein said by telephone. "Teaching the Holocaust in public schools will provide a better understanding of the matter and lessons to prevent it from being repeated."
Mayor Jose Fortunati said that by discussing the Holocaust, "we could build a more peaceful society and combat violence and intolerance."