Editor’s note: following our article earlier this week on the cancellation of an anti-Semitism lecture at the University of Purdue Calumet, disinvited speaker, Peggy Shapiro, wrote to FrontPage to give us her reaction:
“Why do they teach about the Holocaust, but deny students the opportunity to learn from me?” My mother, a Holocaust survivor¸ asked me that question when she learned that she and I were disinvited to speak at Purdue University, Calumet because a presentation about the “Nazi Roots of Modern Anti-Semitism” was deemed “too controversial” and potentially upsetting to some students. I was stunned by the cancellation and had no answer to my mother’s question.
When the Indiana Jewish Federation and the Political Science Department of Purdue University invited me to discuss the influence of Nazi era imagery and messaging on current anti-Semitic propaganda, I readily accepted. Although Purdue has a history course on the Holocaust, the lessons of the Holocaust are not merely historical. They are relevant to the most pressing issues which impact us today. The Holocaust teaches us to recognize the war of words which paves the road for more violent aggression against a minority, whether that minority is Jewish, Christian, European or Rwandan. That dark time in history can also arm us to confront dangerous stereotypes and even more dangerous silence to the persecution of others.
Students at Purdue University deserve the right to learn about Nazi imagery so that they can recognize it when it appears in the modern political arena. They deserve the opportunity to hear from a witness to the Holocaust, an opportunity which may never present itself to them again. Most important, they deserve to get an education, not a timid, politically correct indoctrination that avoids examining a very real bigotry we are witnessing today. Neither Purdue nor the Indiana Jewish Federation provided an explanation of why my speech was cancelled. I think the students deserve better and so does a Holocaust survivor.
Peggy Shapiro is a Chicago Community Coordinator with StandWithUs.