ADL reverses stance on firing of Houses Holocaust historian

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Eight months after praising Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) for firing House historian Christina Jeffrey for her controversial review of a Holocaust education program, the Anti-Defamation League now says she was "stigmatized unfairly" and mislabeled anti-Semitic.

Jeffrey, who as a consultant for the Education Department in 1986 criticized a junior high school Holocaust course for not presenting "the Nazi point of view," was hired by Gingrich as historian of the House of Representatives in January.

But within days, when her views about the Holocaust curriculum became public, she was dismissed.

In Jeffrey's 1986 evaluation of the Holocaust course, she wrote: "The program gives no evidence of balance or objectivity. The Nazi point of view, however unpopular, is still a point of view and is not presented, nor is that of the Ku Klux Klan."

An associate professor at Kennesaw State College in Marietta, Ga., Jeffrey has been trying to clear her name since the flap occurred.

As part of that effort, she met last month with Abraham Foxman, ADL national director, who suggested an exchange of letters.

In her Aug. 8 letter to Foxman, Jeffrey wrote, "These remarks have given rise to great misunderstanding, and I deeply regret this.

"I would not for the world add to the pain of those who have suffered so much at the hands of 20th century butchers and bigots," she wrote.

"Furthermore, I have given my life to a vocation which has as its aim education for freedom. Nothing in my personal or professional life has ever grieved me so much as the false characterization of me as racist and anti-Semitic."

In response, Foxman wrote to Jeffrey: "I understand and appreciate your explanation — and remorse — for what we both agree were ill-considered, poorly chosen remarks."

"I want to assure you that, after examining the facts and circumstances of the controversy involving the `Facing History and Ourselves' Holocaust curriculum, ADL is satisfied that any characterization of you as anti-Semitic or sympathetic to Nazism is entirely unfounded and unfair," he wrote in his Aug. 22 letter.

Although the ADL was among the first of many Jewish groups to praise Gingrich for "swift and decisive action" in firing Jeffrey, Foxman said last week that his support for Jeffrey does not constitute a reversal of ADL's initial stance.

"We never called her an anti-Semite, we never called her a neo-Nazi, we never called her a Holocaust revisionist and we never asked for her removal," he said.

Only when Gingrich did fire her, "We praised him for acting. I don't think we acted unfairly based on the information that was out there," Foxman said.

Foxman said that after he heard Jeffrey better articulate her views during their meeting last month, he "came to the conclusion that this woman made a mistake" and that she was "stigmatized unfairly."

His letter of support was intended to help put the issue to rest and "help her get on with her life," he said.

In an interview last week, Jeffrey said she felt it was important to reach out to the Jewish community to show she "was never motivated by anything resembling the kind of charges that have been leveled at me."

Foxman's letter is "eminently fair and renews my confidence in human nature," she said, adding, "It gives me peace of mind."