The first week of November is Holocaust Education Week (HEW), as recognized by Jewish Community organisations across Canada. Recognizing Holocaust Education Week is part of the Waterloo Region District School Board’s (WRDSB) ongoing commitment to raising our collective consciousness and knowledge about the historical and contemporary experiences of systematically persecuted communities.

From 1933-1945, the Nazi Germany regime was responsible for the systematic, state-sponsored, persecution and mass murder of six million Jewish People and 5 million non-Jewish people because they were classified by the regime as racially or biologically inferior. This included Roma and Sinti People, LGBTQIA, people with disabilities, Slavic Peoples, and Afro-Germans. However, it was the European Jewish Community that was targeted for extinction. It was an attempt to extinguish the Jewish people and their culture. Almost 80 million people would die in World War II, the global war that brought an end to the Nazi Regime in Germany. The Holocaust is one of the deadliest genocides in history.

While Canada joined its allies in defeating the Nazi regime, the history of our response to the Holocaust and those fleeing persecution saw Canada turning its back on those who needed safe haven. In May 1939, the MS St. Louis, a refugee ship carrying Jewish people fleeing Europe was turned away. In November 2018, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologised for this tragic moment in Canadian history. During the Holocaust era, Jewish Canadians raised their collective voices in newspapers, condemned Nazi race laws, protested the Canadian government, aided in Jewish refugee settlement and enlisted in the Canadian Army that fought in World War II. This is the power of a group of determined voices united in advocacy.

Holocaust Education Week

As we work towards a deeper understanding of systemic oppression, learning about the Holocaust presents an opportunity to develop an understanding of how systems and policies can lead to discrimination and genocide, and impact a community for future generations.

Equally, as we witness the increase in anti-Semitism or anti-Jewish hate in Waterloo Region and the wider community, learning about the Holocaust creates a space to examine the history of anti-Semitism, as well as the manifestation of harmful ideologies.

HEW is also a time to acknowledge the resiliency of Jewish Canadians and their contributions to Canadian culture.

Please note that we have not recommended that educators teach this subject matter to students below Grade 6, based on guidance from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

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7053 Stelae at the Holocaust Memorial – this image by photoeverywhere is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.