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Scout and her third grade classmates get a lesson about the Holocaust from her teacher, Miss Gates, in Chapter 26 of To Kill a Mockingbird. Miss Gates denounces Adolph Hitler and his persecution of the Jews, telling the class that the Jews
"... contribute to every society they live in, and... the Jews have been persecuted since the beginning of history, even driven out of their own country. It's one of the terrible stories in history."
But Miss Gates's remarks puzzle Scout, since she remembers a conversation her teacher had with Miss Stephanie in which she harshly criticizes Maycomb's own black citizens. Scout recognizes the hypocrisy in Miss Gates's two views about the Jews and Negroes, who, like the Jews, have also endured constant persecution within their own borders.
Cecil Jacobs brings an article about Hitler's treatment of the Jews for his current events assignment in chapter 26. Inquiring third-grade minds urge Miss Gates to explain how one man can lock up so many people without the government locking him up instead. She answers them by discussing the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship. Then she introduces them to the word prejudice as follows:
"Over here we don't believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced. . . There are no better people in the world than the Jews, and why Hitler doesn't think so is a mystery to me" (245).
The discussion continues about religious persecution, but Miss Gates never makes the connection for the children that they are all prejudiced to blacks by the way they treat them in their very own community. Cecil Jacobs even asks about the Jews in Germany without batting an eye, "They're white, ain't they?" (245). Clearly, this class needs some real guidance, but they don't get it from their racist teacher. Only Scout realizes the hypocrisy--she just doesn't know that word yet.
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