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Cecil Rosner presents Zev Faintuch with award.
Photo by Mark Gershkovich.

Belle Milo, Shelley Faintuch, Zev’s mother, Sonja Faintuch, Zev’s grandmother and Zev Faintuch.
Photo by Mark Gershkovich.



By Rhonda Spivak, September 22, 2010

Zev Faintuch was awarded the  Mina Rosner Human Rights Award on September 22 which  is presented to the winning entry in the Mina Rosner Human Rights Essay Competition [His winning essay is presented at the bottom of this article]. The ceremony took place yesterday at the Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre of the Jewish Heritage Centre  at the Asper Campus.

The $400 prize is awarded annually to Manitoba students in grades 9-12 who produce the best essays on the theme of the Holocaust or other important human rights issues, which exemplify the message that Mina Rosner, a Holocaust survivor, brought to schools and the general public.

Mina Rosner, who was born in Buchach, [now in the Ukraine] was the sole survivor of her family in the Holocaust and moved to Winnipeg in 1948.  Faintuch was presented with the award by  Mina Rosner’s son Cecil.
Belle Millo, chairperson of the  Freeman Family Foundation Holocasut Education Centre, who gave opening remarks at the award ceremony  noted that “ Mina Rosner dedicated her life to educating people about the Holocaust and devoted countless hours to speaking engagements with students about the importance of combatting racism and defending human rights. She recorded her wartime experiences in her book I am a Witness. In 1990, she returned to Buchach for the first time since the war, and the visit was captured in an award winning CBC documentary called Return to Buchach. "

As Cecil Rosner told the Winnipeg Jewish Review, after his mother passed away [ in 1997] “the  family decided  that people who wanted to make contributions in her memory [and keep her legacy alive] should make them to the  Mina Rosner Memorial Fund  at The Jewish Foundation of Manitoba. There was about 10,000 dollars  and the annual interest from the fund is used for this competition which should be enduring.”

As Millo said in her introduction, Faintuch , the grandchild of holocaust survivors, "produced an excellent essay” and also “truly exemplifies the issues that were so important to the late Mina Rosner.”

Millo added that Faintuch’s essay, Lessons Not Learned  “impressed the jury with its mature focus on the theme of the world’s failure to have learned anything from the Shoah in preventing genocide” and the need to be vigilant. 

As Faintuch wrote:  “If we had learned anything from the Shoah we should have learned this: as soon as a group of people is socially and politically alienated in a country, there is a problem and potential for genocide. We need to… be prepared to act on our moral principles and on international principles that are supposed to prevent genocide.”

Faintuch also wrote: “Invasion for political gain is not just. Intervention to prevent the mass murder of innocent human beings is not only acceptable but is imperative


Faintuch leaves next week to participate in the program Marva and from there he hopes to enlist in the  Israeli Defense Forces.

He told the Winnipeg Jewish Review, that “I have had the idea of enlisting in the IDF ever since I participated in March of the Living in 2008.  After  March of the Living  I swore that  I’d do anything to protect the Jewish homeland and make it a safe haven for Jews.”

Faintuch said he has been to Israel four times and  has a lot of friends there.  “My friends are going in the army . I think it will be a good experience for personal growth,” he said.

When asked if he intended to make aliyah, Faintuch answered  that “It’s too soon to tell. I don’t know.”

When asked if he is frightened at all, he said no but “I’m nervous about the lifestyle changes and about not knowing too many people and having to adapt to the language and culture.”

In introducing the award Milo said “ Zev has always endeavored to achieve academically while, at the same time, participating in sports, musicals, and volunteering in the community. He represented Gray Academy at various conferences and programs, such as the United Way and Forum for Young Canadians; he co-chaired the P2K Committee; he was a P2K delegate to Israel and participated in the March of the Living. Zev undertook many leadership positions in the school: participated in student council, he co-chaired the first high school advocacy committee; and was the President of the Student Council in his final year of high school. He has a keen interest in history and politics and has volunteered for political candidates in the community. Zev has worked hard over the last few years to raise awareness of human rights abuses in Sudan, Afghanistan and Iran through the Raoul Wallenberg Day Conferences that he has helped to organize. He is a strong Zionist and has also advocated for fair press and treatment of Israel."

Lessons Not Learned

By Zev Faintuch

If we have learned anything from the Shoah, it is that forgetting is easier that remembering. For if we, the citizens of the world, had not forgotten what happened in Nazi Germany and Europe some seventy years ago, we would not have allowed Armenians, Cambodians, Darfurians, Kosovans, Rwandans, and many others to be slaughtered because of prejudice. However, should we intervene in the internal affairs of other countries? When is it right to invade another country’s sovereignty for a noble cause? When is it right to stand by and allow history to take its course? Do we have the moral right to impose our values on other countries? These questions arise as a result of the study of the Shoah and the issue of the incredible number of bystanders, nations and individuals, who allowed it to happen.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing (Edmund Burke).” During the Shoah, the Nazi regime had a reign of terror, a totalitarian regime in which criticism and acts in defiance of policy were punishable by death. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, refused to pledge allegiance to Hitler and were, therefore, sent to concentration camps and had to suffer the consequences. Individuals who dared to hide Jews were not only killed but their families were killed as well. Many individuals watched what was happening to the Jews and claimed it was too dangerous for them to act to prevent the horrors. They played it safe. Can we really blame them for wanting to live or should we expect them to have acted “morally” and saved the lives of individuals they didn’t know? Some individuals simply hid behind the fear of being caught and some just turned a blind eye. Simple, ordinary, family people who were respectable members of society did not act to prevent the crimes.

Then there were also the nations of the world who stood by and did little or nothing to ease the plight of the Jews.  One of the common excuses was that the nations really did not know what was happening. This cannot be the truth. The news of Kristallnacht, for example, made the front pages of newspapers in New York, London and most of the western world. Yet, they refused to open their arms and their doors to let in significant numbers of Jewish refugees claiming, as did then Prime Minister William Mackenzie King of Canada, that this was not the time to act on humanitarian grounds. We have only to look at the plight of the nine hundred and thirty-seven passengers on board the ill-fated St. Louis. Not only did Cuba refuse to allow them to disembark, but Panama, the United States, and Canada also stood by and watched the ship return to Europe where many of the passengers who did not disembark in England ended up dead. Were the post depression years really so hard on the world that allowing in Jewish trades people, professionals, academics and other potentially productive citizens would have wreaked havoc on society or the economy? Had the nations of the world accepted Jewish refugees, fewer Jews would have been murdered.

The world was so aware of the refugee problem that Roosevelt convened the Evian Conference in France in July of 1938, where thirty-one countries met but could not agree on any resolutions to the Jewish problem. Nor did they condemn Germany. In fact, not only did these countries do nothing to help the Jews but the conference tacitly gave the Nazis a green light to proceed with their final solution for the Jews. They correctly inferred from the conference that if no one else wanted to help the Jews, then they could do as they wished without international interference. Finally, while the allies knew what and where the death camps were, especially Auschwitz, they refused to bomb the railroads to the camp. They had many excuses for their nonintervention: Could the Americans have spared one plane full of bombs to destroy the part of the railway track leading to Auschwitz, or did they think that sparing one plane was too many? They said they were worried that they could not pinpoint the tracks and were worried that they would hit inmates and yet they were capable of pinpoint bombing runs elsewhere. Then they also said that they could not spare planes to bomb tracks when their real targets were the chemical and arms factories nearby.

After the Shoah, the world became aware of the magnitude of the bystander issue and its role in the perpetration of genocide. The world said, “never again” and yet we have witnessed so many genocides since World War Two. When should countries intervene in the affairs of others?

The United States, the moral and military leader of the world, chose to intervene in the affairs of other countries several times when facing the threat of the spread of communism. Korea, Viet Nam, Afghanistan, Central America are but a few examples. The U.S. has also intervened when trying to manipulate the power structure of certain countries: America supported the Shah of Iran then, when the Islamic Revolution took place, America put Saddam Hussein into power to combat Iran. To clean up their mess, in 1991 the United States put troops in Saudi Arabia to protect this country from Sadam Hussein – thus placing “Christian” troops on Muslim soil and incurring the wrath of the Muslim world. After the September 11th terrorist attacks on American soil, the United States embarked on its “war on terror” by endeavoring to destroy the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

However, was there any intervention when genocides were occurring, when there was no political or strategic gain? The world witnessed the horrors of the Rwandan genocide when close to one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered by the Hutus. The world was more than aware. In fact, the United Nations forces left the country because it was becoming too dangerous for the U.N. troops. General Romeo Dallaire’s cries for help were ignored and the genocide was enabled. Currently we are witnessing the slaughter in Darfur. While the world debates the technicalities of genocide, and countries such as the Untied States and Great Britain decry the slaughter, no one has physically intervened to stop the murder of innocents.

If we had learned anything from the Shoah we should have learned this: as soon as a group of people is socially and politically alienated in a country, there is a problem and potential for genocide. We need to monitor these situations and be prepared to act on our moral principles and on international principles that are supposed to prevent genocide. The line between intervention for political or strategic reasons and intervention in order to save lives is very fuzzy. It is wrong to arm or support any particular group in another country because even if intentions are sound, these groups are not accountable to the countries who put them in power. Therefore, helping rebel and political groups in other countries does not necessarily constitute intervention in a positive manner. It usually simply perpetuates violence. Nonetheless, with what we know from the Shoah, we cannot and should not allow ourselves the comfortable position of nonintervention in the social policies of other countries when innocent lives are at stake. Invasion for political gain is not just. Intervention to prevent the mass murder of innocent human beings is not only acceptable but is imperative. As stated by Yehuda Bauer, "Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander."

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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