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Elaine and I grew up together, but only just recently met....

Berkshire Living to Cease Publication
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Review by Seth Rogovoy

[MUSIC REVIEW] Avalon Quartet in Close Encounters at Mahaiwe
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Review by Seth Rogovoy

[FILM REVIEW] Bill Cunningham New York
Review by Seth Rogovoy

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Holocaust denier gone free

With David Irving in the news again lately, having been sentenced to prison for denying the Holocaust in its birthplace, Austria ("Holocaust Denier Gets Three Years in Jail", reminds me that in a Long Island middle school in the 1970s, another Holocaust denier taught untold generations of sixth graders that the Holocaust was an "exaggeration" and that it was "impossible" that the Germans had killed six million Jews.

I'm speaking of Eugene Vincent Bradley, my very own sixth-grade teacher at Islip (N.Y.) Junior High School in Islip, N.Y. For some unknown, bizarre reason that only he can reveal, Mr. Bradley felt the need to poison the minds of successive years of 11- and 12-year-old students with these doubts about the truth about the Holocaust in his classes on world history.

Never one to attempt to hide his anti-Semitism, Mr. Bradley offered freely volunteered the "fact" that the Jesuits were kicked out of more countries than the Jews.

I have heard from other students who had Mr. Bradley as a sixth-grade teacher around the same time that I did that he made these claims as a regular, annual part of his curriculum.

What is amazing, however, is that he seemed to have gotten away with this without anyone making a single peep over it. This was still a time when many Jews lived in fear of rocking the boat or making a fuss. Even though the superintendent of the entire school district was Jewish, to my knowledge, Mr. Bradley was never called to account for this behavior: not by students, parents, or school administrators.

Perhaps it's not too late. Does anyone out there know Eugene Vincent Bradley? Where is he, and what is he doing?

I don't want to oppress this poor, sad man, who must be nearing retirement age by now. But I would like him to provide an explanation for what he did.

It's not so much that he harmed people like me, who knew very well that what he was saying was a lie.

What bothers me all these years later is that each year, he must have been successful in instilling a sense of doubt in several of his students as to the historical truth of what happened to the Jews at the hands of the Germans. Somewhere in the back of their mind, they remember that an otherwise genial teacher seemed very convinced that there was some doubt about what actually went down in the death camps (and as I write this, I vaguely recall him casting dobuts on the machinery of death, too, much like David Irving).

Eugene Bradley has a lot to answer for, as do any of his colleagues who knew the venom he was spewing; the parents of children who heard what he was saying and didn't protest; and the school administrators -- two of whom I'm still in touch with -- who stood by and did nothing.

I too had Mr. Bradley as a sixth-grade teacher, as part of a two-class team, the year after Seth did—it must have been 1972-73. Bradley taught social studies and science to both classes, and the other teacher handled math and English. A long-time friend (who was in my sixth grade class) and I were just e-mailing about this very topic. It's really amazing what Mr. Bradley did. Unfortunately, he had a lot of charisma as a teacher. Every day, I'd come home from school saying, "Mr. Bradley said..." We were all under his spell.

To put things in context, there were very few Jewish kids in our school district, which is surprising for some people to hear when they think of Long Island. We’re talking 1 or 2 kids per classroom. I knew the holocaust revisionist lecture was coming up when we got to the WWII unit (from another Jewish kid who had Mr. Bradley the year before I did). I did try to object at the time---I brought in a volume of the World Book Encyclopedia that discussed the holocaust (and of course indicated that six million Jews were murdered in the holocaust). He pointed out that the piece was written by a Jew! I remember a (non-Jewish) classmate bringing in a photo of a huge crowd of people from a news magazine. She said, "This is a photo of xxx thousand people. So how could there have been six million Jews killed?" She played right into his hands.

My mother is a holocaust survivor---she was a hidden child in Belgium during the war, separated from her parents. Fortunately, the three of them survived, through the generosity of strangers, and were reunited after the war. Most of my mother’s many aunts and uncles were not so lucky, and at least two of her first cousins (children) were killed. My daughter is named is after one of them. My mother and all of her cousins have coped with their traumatic childhoods by not talking about their experiences during the war. (Only recently did my mother even dare ask a first cousin where she was hidden during the war.) While this may not be considered conventional wisdom from a psychological standpoint, I believe this is the only way these people could have proceeded with their lives.

But when this holocaust issue came up in sixth grade, my mother of course got very angry and felt the need to do something about it. While she was reluctant to get the superintendent involved (for fear of putting this Jewish man in the position of losing his job), she felt compelled to go to school and yell at Mr. Bradley. (Last night, she reminded me that I had asked her not to embarrass me.) I stood out in the hallway while she barged into his classroom after school, interrupting a parent-teacher conference, saying “This conference is over!!” and proceeded to lay into him. If I remember correctly, this incident caused her to start having nightmares.

I actually wrote a letter to Mr. Bradley in the mid- to late-80s when there was a similar story in the news about a holocaust-denier in Europe who was convicted. In the letter, I told him everything I was unable to say as a sixth grader. Not surprisingly, I never got a response, but I assume he got it. I mailed it to him care of the school.

On a related issue, I also remember arguing with him when I was the co-editor of the two-class newspaper. He and the other team teacher insisted that I write an editorial about “the Christmas spirit “ for the December issue, even after I objected that I didn't feel qualified to write about that. Seth told me he remembers being in put the exact same situation the year before.

Barbara Lepidus Carlson


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