NEW YORK CITY (JTA) – An online textbook that says Holocaust victims did not “tap into their strength” is required reading at the University of North Carolina. The book, 21st Century Wellness, is part of a one-credit hour Lifetime Fitness course that is mandatory for UNC undergraduates. The course is meant to teach students how to stay physically fit and make healthy lifestyle choices. But along with handing out advice about leading a healthy lifestyle, the book contains an excerpt that says that Holocaust victims who died failed to find their inner strength, CNN has reported.
“The people in the camps who did not tap into the strength that comes from their intrinsic worth succumbed to the brutality to which they were subjected,” the book reads. The text was contracted for use for two years, but is under review for the fall, a school spokesman said.
Ryan Holmes, who took a Lifetime Fitness weight training course last fall, was among a number of students who criticized the book. “I thought that it was an oversimplification that didn’t account for situational factors,” he said.
The school works with the book’s publisher, Bearface Instructional Technologies, to make changes to the text. Perceivant, Bearface’s parent company, sells its materials to 15 universities, including Arizona State, Ohio State and Mississippi State, CNN reported.
Former Olympic speedskater Barbara Lockhart and Brigham Young University professor Ron Hager authored the book.
The Holocaust example was meant to show that a person’s circumstance don’t define them and their worth, Hager told CNN. Some survivors have said knowing their worth helped them survive, and people who didn’t know their worth might have had a harder time in the camps, he wrote.
“A sense of inherent self-worth can be a source of strength or motivation that can help those struggling, in this case in concentration camps but also for anyone,” he wrote.
The late Primo Levi, an Auschwitz survivor and author who devoted numerous books to the psychology of survival, frequently argued that life in the Nazi camps defied any normal understandings of human behavior.“Remember that the concentration camp system even from its origins (which coincide with the rise to power of Nazism in Germany), had as its primary purpose shattering the adversaries’ capacity to resist: for the camp management, the new arrival was by definition an adversary, whatever the label attached to him might be, and he must immediately be demolished to make sure that he did not become an example or a germ of organized resistance,” he wrote in 1986.