An anti-Semitic TikTok video posted and taken down Wednesday afternoon from a high school student in rural Nicollet, Minn., has drawn a swift rebuke from the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, and the Nicollet School District superintendent.
The video, under the banner of “Me and the boys on the way to camp,” depicts two young men strutting up a ramp into a boxcar of a train with Holocaust victims, dancing on the train, and then skipping on the tracks into Auschwitz-Birkenau.
“It’s just a sad encounter,” said Superintendent Dennis Morrow. “We think we make a difference for good and sometimes we get surprised. My heart just sunk. I just have no excuse.”
Morrow had letters to the two students in the video hand-delivered on Thursday morning. The letter (read the PDF here) details in explicit terms the punishment they receive. Each student will complete a 10-page paper, double-spaced, with specific margins, font and, font-size.
“My goal was not to allow a shortcut. I want it to be a paper filled with sweat equity that needs research. No grade will be awarded until I see and approve it,” said Morrow, who in his teaching days, was an AP European History teacher. The topics are different, so the students can’t work together. “I wanted topics that would be vivid and memorable. This is not humorous. It was deadly serious. We are not taking this lightly and nobody gets a pass.”
Before deleting the video, it was clear that the teen didn’t think he did anything wrong. In a screenshot shared with TC Jewfolk, a college student accused him of making light of the atrocities of the Holocaust, but he disagreed:
This is the second notable incident involving Minnesota high school students, anti-Semitism, and social media in the last two years. At Minnetonka High School in January 2019, a student used a Nazi theme to ask someone a school dance.
“We are grateful to the Minnetonka School District and Minnetonka High School for their partnership in educating their students about the unique horrors of the Holocaust, as well as to our rabbinic colleagues who along with the JCRC did the difficult work of building a relationship with the two Minnetonka High School students who created the offensive post,” Steve Hunegs said in a statement released early Thursday morning. “We hope that the school district, as well as the students responsible for this antisemitic TikTok will partner with the JCRC and the Jewish community to do the painful, but necessary work of understanding why their post was so offensive and repenting for the harm that these students caused.”
The incident came less than a week before Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is on Tuesday, April 21.
“We are increasingly concerned about a grave empathy deficit, which enables students and others to weaponize their knowledge about the Holocaust to insult the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, and further traumatize Jews at a time when we are experiencing a demonstrative increase in antisemitism,” Hunegs’ statement said. “We remain committed to educating Minnesotans about the Holocaust and antisemitism and building empathy and respect for all Minnesotans within and beyond our Jewish community.”
Morrow said he was reaching out to Hunegs and the JCRC and would look to them for resources.