Dora Zaidenweber has been telling her story most of her life, and she's used to the effect it can have on people.

People reacted with shock when she arrived in the United States with her family in 1950 as a young woman who survived six months in the Auschwitz death camp, where she could smell the bodies burning. She saw people's disbelief as she strived for the education she was deprived of for so many years working in forced labor camps.

"People were not quite believing that this could have happened to us," Zaidenweber said. "And they certainly didn't believe that it could happen here."

After a lifetime of educating people about the Holocaust, she pleaded with Minnesota legislators Wednesday to pass a proposal requiring schools to offer Holocaust and genocide education in middle and high school social studies curriculum. She doesn't want the next generation to react to those atrocities with disbelief.

"Mass murders can happen, and people have to understand to learn to live with each other," said Zaidenweber, now 99 years old. "It is only through understanding and education that they know who their neighbors are, who the people they are living with and learn to live with."

The proposal also includes a requirement to teach about other genocides, including of Indigenous people, which would be the first time that's been addressed in Minnesota statute. The bill would make Minnesota the 23rd state to require some form of Holocaust and genocide education.

The issue is personal for Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, the sponsor of the bill and the child of two Holocaust survivors. During the hearing, Hornstein lifted up a thick black book that he wrote as a student at Macalester College chronicling his family's experiences.

All his grandparents died during the Holocaust. His parents met on a train heading to a displaced persons camp.

"These stories are so critical and why this bill is especially important now," he said. "Many of our survivors are older and we need to make sure many of our stories are preserved for future generations."

The bill proposes creating a task force that would develop the resources necessary to implement the new requirements, as well as provide funding for professional training to help teachers prepare to teach the curriculum. The task force is required to report recommendations to the Legislature by November 2025.

Most educators want to teach about the Holocaust and genocide, but they lack the resources to do so, said Joe Eggers, interim director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota.

Wayzata High School freshman Max Walstien said he wrote a research paper on the Holocaust in sixth grade, inspired to dig deeper by his own Jewish background. But what he was taught in school was limited, and he was concerned by the lack of understanding from his fellow students about the horrors of the Holocaust, which saw Nazi Germany and allies systematically murder 6 million Jews.

"The Holocaust is one of the most denied events in history, and that denial goes on to fuel anti-Semitism," he said.

The bill was approved by the House Education Policy Committee on Wednesday and unanimously passed through a Senate committee last Monday.

As the hearing on the bill ended, Hornstein leaned over to Zaidenweber and said, "l'dor v'dor," a Hebrew phrase meaning "from generation to generation."

Staff photographer Aaron Lavinsky contributed reporting to this story.