Tenafly, New Jersey parents were furious after discovering a local elementary school project glorifying Adolf Hitler had been displayed on the walls at Ralph S. Maugham Elementary for six weeks.
An image of the essay was shared online and prompted outrage from parents and the community.
A teacher asked fifth-grade students to write from the perspective of historical figures who "personify good or evil."
Permission was given to one female student who wanted to write about the accomplishments of the Nazi leader who was responsible for the Holocaust leading to the torture and deaths of millions of Jews, Romani, disabled people, homosexuals and dissidents during his dictatorship from 1933 to 1945.
As part of the assignment, the student came to the school dressed in a costume depicting Adolph Hitler.
Tenafly resident Shimon Avrahami told ABC 7 News:
"It's appalling, it should've been stopped the minute this girl game to school."
You can watch the news report here:
Local leaders called for the board of education to conduct an investigation.
Mark Zinna, mayor of Tenafly, said:
"The teachers are responsible for what happens in the classroom and they're responsible for what gets posted on the walls."
Here is a screenshot of the assignment:
The assignment—written from the perspective of the genocidal despot—read:
"My greatest accomplishment was uniting a great mass of German and Austrian people behind me."
"I rose to power as the leader of the Nazi party, becoming chancellor in 1933 and then assuming the title of Führer und Reichskanzler in 1934."
"Führer und Reichskanzler means leader and chancellor. I was pretty wasn't I?"
"I was very popular and many people followed me until I died."
"My belief in anti-Semitism drove me to kill more than 6 million Jews."
The 11-year-old student who wrote the assignment is getting bullied at the school as a result, but many believe it was not her fault. They instead blame the adults who let her do the assignment and go to school dressed as Hitler.
According to North Jersey.com, the incident resulted in the teacher and the school's principal being placed on administrative leave pending a district investigation.
In a letter sent to parents on Thursday night, Tenafly Superintendent Shauna DeMarco said the assignment violated the district's curriculum and "an attempt to individualize the project resulted in the student receiving misguided instruction from the teacher."
Jason Shames, the CEO and Executive Vice President of the Jewish Federation Northern New Jersey said:
"There's the teacher, there's the principal, there's the superintendent, and that seems to be the chain of command that needs to be looked at."
The Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, a Jewish Community Center in Tenafly, issued a statement expressing concern, saying:
"This incident further illustrates the need for increased awareness in our community about the harmful impact our words and actions can have on others."
"Regardless of the educational intent here the teacher failed to recognize the profound impact this can have on students, family members and others in our community who could perceive this project as condoning or even glorifying the atrocities of one of the most evil individuals in world history."
Tenafly Councilwoman Lauren Kohn Dayton explained the inquisitive 5th-grader was given permission to discuss and learn about the Holocaust and did not mean to be antisemitic.
"When discussing our history and social injustice in the fifth grade, the Holocaust is an important topic to discuss and learn, and this student was given permission to do so.
"The child stuck to the requirements of a school assignment. The child had NO intention to be anti-Semitic, offensive or hateful towards our Jewish community."
"I personally know this child and her family, and I would welcome them into my Jewish home anytime. If we are to have a conversation about appropriate school assignments, teaching, or teacher guidance for our children, then let's talk to the school."
"But please remember that this is an elementary school child, and the child's mental health and well-being must be protected. Ask for the facts from your local town and BOE representatives."
The board of education issued a statement saying the incident was all "a misunderstanding."
The statement read, in part:
"The assignment, which was given by a teacher who happens to be Jewish, asked students to speak from the perspective of one of these individuals and how they might have perceived and rationalized their actions."
"When people saw the students' projects, which were displayed in the school, they did not understand the assignment, resulting in justifiable concerns."
North Jersey.com said while there was a lot of negative reaction on social media, a petition supporting the teacher was also circulating online.