Texas superintendent moved to ban Holocaust books following demands by far-right activists

"We want to protect [children] from these extremely vulgar and offensive books," activists wrote

Published June 27, 2024 11:49AM (EDT)

This illustration photo taken in Los Angeles, California on January 27, 2022 shows a person holding the graphic novel "Maus" by Art Spiegelman. (MARO SIRANOSIAN/AFP via Getty Images)
This illustration photo taken in Los Angeles, California on January 27, 2022 shows a person holding the graphic novel "Maus" by Art Spiegelman. (MARO SIRANOSIAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Bowing to pressure from conservatives, the superintendent of a Texas school district agreed earlier this month to remove 676 books from its libraries, including seminal texts on the Holocaust and antisemitism, according to a report by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

That superintendent, Carol Perez, is now facing her own removal by a board of trustees that recently voted to initiate a separation process on the grounds that her 10-year contract is illegal, clearly violating a Texas law that limits such contracts to five years.

Though the censorship has not been cited as a cause for removal, the decision by the trustees came just weeks after she provoked backlash by immediately surrendering to a demand from right-wing activists to purge "very sexually explicit" and "filthy and evil" books, rather than asking them to go through a formal challenge process first.

The activists, led by a local pastor and outspoken Israel advocate Luis Cabrera, had been pushing the Mission Consolidated Independent School District in south Texas to remove books about gender, sexuality and race; two groups that he is an active member of — Citizens Defending Freedom and Remnant Alliance — also wants to rid libraries of books about the Holocaust.

The campaign against books that offend right-wing sensibilities is one being carried out across the United States, with its most notable successes occurring in GOP-controlled states such as Florida and Texas, where school officials have banned a graphic adaptation of Anne Frank's diary, or Tennessee, where a district removed "Maus," a graphic novel about the Holocaust, from the middle school curriculum. In Iowa, school districts quietly disposed of a slew of Holocaust-themed books and films after lobbying by activists.

In emails that were copied to Gabrera and other local right-wing leaders, activist Martha Garza-Johnson presented Perez with the list of 676 offending books, which included Anne Frank's diary, "Maus," "The Fixer," "Kasher in the Rye" and other works about the Holocaust and the Jewish experience. If their demands were not met, Garza-Johnson continued, she and other activists would crash public school board meetings and read graphic passages from the books out loud.

“We are here to work with you,” she wrote. “We are advocating for our children because we want to protect them from these extremely vulgar and offensive books that have no business in our schools.”

“We will certainly check to see if we have those books to remove them,” Perez responded. “Thank you!”

Mission CISD's deputy superintendent then followed up to assure them that she would “begin working with Library Services to track the books on the system and have them removed from the libraries.”

Although the right-wing activists, with backing from Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, have targeted other schools in the region with the same threats, Mission CISD is the only school district to have acceded to their version of demands. It's unknown whether the district followed through on removing the books.

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