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Washington D.C., U.S. Congress
photo by Rhonda Spivak

David Asper

Thank You to the Asper Foundation - My Trip to the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C.

At the Museum I was able to find out what happened to my own great grandfather

by Hadas Kempner , going into Grade 10, Gray Academy, July 22, 2013

"Only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully, lest you forget the things your eyes saw, and lest these things depart your heart all the days of your life, and you shall make them known to your children, and to your children's children."

 Deuteronomy 4:9

On April 22nd, 2013 the Grade 9 class of Gray Academy of Jewish Education visited the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.  This trip was funded by the Asper Foundation. (Today, about 90 percent of the Museum’s visitors are not Jewish.)

As we entered the building, there was a main lobby, with big stairs where you walked down to start touring the museum. The first exhibit we saw  which was one of the most memorable ones was called Daniel’s Story-- a true story. The exhibit entitled "Remember the Children: Daniel's Story" was in 3-D, and it really felt like you were there. The story told was about Daniel’s family and friends and how his life was before the Holocaust .Throughout the exhibit we got to open things and see pages from the diary Daniel wrote in at the time, when he was around 13 years old, which tells of his family's deportation to Auschwitz. [Editor's note: According to the U.S. Holocaust Museum's website, professionals in all fields of child development assisted in and reviewed the making of Daniel’s Story. Museum and classroom educators and interpreters participated in the creation of the exhibition. Three preminent child psychiatrists reviewed every detail]

At the end of the exhibit we were able to sit down for a couple of minutes and write letters and put them in a mail box on site. After that we got to walk around for a little while. We got to look at some art work that kids our age painted. They painted it just for the museum. Then we had lunch break-- we ate lunch outside, it was such a beautiful day. After lunch break ended we got into our small groups (about 4-5 people) and lined up to go to the elevator along with other schools from Winnipeg and Canada. When we got to the very top floor the main tour started.
It showed videos, pictures, writings and models of how Hitler and the Nazi party came into power. There were many sad things that I saw as I walked through the museum, but I also knew it was important for me to know my history. I walked into a big room; there were the bunk beds from the cabins in the concentration camps. There was a video about the medical experiments that the Nazis did on the Jews; it was very awful and hard to watch. At the end of the tour our grade went into a small room and talked about what we experienced.

I am very grateful that I was able to go on this trip-- I’ll never forget it; I know it was important for me. When I’m a mom I will send my kids on this trip because it’s important for our future generations to remember.

My mom wanted me to find out what happened to her grandfather, Reuven Oshinski in the Holocaust . He was born in Germany and before the war he made aliyah to Israel with his wife and children.

He was a businessman and he had to go to France for work back and forth. One day he didn't return from France.
I learned at the Washington Holocaust Museum that the Nazis took the Jews in France who weren't from there to a holding camp in France. The Nazis put him on a train to Drancy a concentration camp, in France, near Paris. There were only adult males there.

Had I not visited the Museum, I would never have learned what happened to my great-grandfather.


Editor's note: Since its 1997 inception, The Asper Foundation's the 2013 Human Rights and Holocaust Studies Program for grade-nine students across Canada has become one of Canada’s largest philanthropic educational initiatives, reaching over 11,500 high-school students and chaperones in 118 cities and communities spanning 12 provinces and territories. 

 In 2013, 36 schools and community organizations from 16 cities in six provinces are participating in the program.  Almost 1,100 high school students and chaperones  travelled to freedom memorials and the renowned US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC on five separate trips taking place between April and June 2013. 

Students are also required to volunteer for 16 hours each in their communities on public projects of their choosing which has resulted in almost 125,000 hours of volunteer community service being carried out across Canada since the program was established. The Asper Foundation and its program partners contribute and raise over one million dollars annually to facilitate the participation of high school students and their chaperones in the program.

The program is aimed at promoting understanding and sensitizing Canadian high school students to the consequences of racism.  It deals with topics ranging from racism to genocide and its extraordinary success in communities across Canada was the inspiration for the original vision of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. 

In 2004, the program received the Human Rights Award from the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and, in 2008, The Asper Foundation received the New Brunswick Pioneer of Human Rights Award from the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission.

As David Asper, Chair of The Asper Foundation, commented in a press release earlier this year, “Our foundation is extremely proud that this program has inspired so many thousands of Canadian high-school students over the years to take personal responsibility in ensuring that all human rights are protected.  They understand that real change begins with them.”

Feedback from students in the program proves the value in the effort: “I will stand strong for what I believe in and will take on the responsibility to educate other people in the future”; “This program had a profound effect on me”; “It taught me that we are all responsible to teach others about human rights”; “I am more willing to take action now instead of just talking about what should be done”; and, “It is up to us and our generation to pass our knowledge to future generations.”

The program includes an 18-hour education program on human rights and the Holocaust with an added emphasis on American history, the civil rights movement and the current situation in the world today.  The program’s educational curriculum was developed by human rights and Holocaust educators for The Asper Foundation.  After the educational component is completed, students participate in a trip to Washington, DC where they spend several days at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and other important monuments relating to human rights and freedom.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.