Education about the Holocaust could not be timelier, and students at Vankleek Hill Collegiate Institute (VCI) had the opportunity to learn about it on Wednesday, November 15.
The Tour for Humanity visited the school. The tour is a 30-seat mobile human rights education classroom in a converted coach bus established by the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The Simon Wiesenthal Center is headquartered in Los Angeles and is a global, Jewish human rights organization dedicated to confronting antisemitism, hate, and defends the State of Israel and the safety of Jewish people everywhere. The Tour for Humanity was visiting 10 different Upper Canada District School Board secondary schools. The school board is also recognizing Holocaust Education Week from November 27 to December 1.
At VCI and other stops, students attended 30-minute workshops including a video presentation and discussion. Students are provided with a history and definition of antisemitism as prejudice or hatred towards Jewish people. They are also provided with a historical knowledge of the Holocaust as developed by the Nazi Party in Germany under Adolf Hitler, how it was implemented with discriminatory laws in the 1930s and then the horrific concentration and death camps. The Nazis considered Jews, non-ethnically German groups, and other segments of society to be impure and inferior. Six million Jewish people were killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Hundreds of thousands of disabled people, homosexuals, and people of the Roma and Sinti ethnic groups were also murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
The current war between Israel and Hamas, and an overall increase in antisemitic activity in recent years has made factual education about the Holocaust even more important. Tour for Humanity Educator Elena Kingsbury said the presentations to students are an attempt to connect what happened in the past to what is happening in the present.
“It’s presented new challenges in addressing the topic of antisemitism and the Holocaust,” she said.
Kingsbury said those challenges include countering misrepresentations and misunderstandings of Jewish history, which allow stereotypes to flourish.
During one of the presentations at VCI, Kingsbury explained to students how hate crimes, which target victims based on their race, religion, political beliefs, and sexuality are increasing. She emphasized that there is nothing funny about it either.
“This topic is a serious topic, it’s not something we need to laugh about,” she remarked.
The students were also given an explanation of various hate symbols such as the swastika and how it is important to understand that it is dangerous when people have obsessions or fanaticism associated with Hitler and Nazism.
Kingsbury emphasized to students there is a necessity to protect everyone’s right to be free.