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Alan Yusim at the commemoration event

Belle Millo delivering her remarks

Bill Weissmann blowing the shofar

photo by Rhonda Prepes


By Rhonda Spivak, February 2, 2011

An event marking  International Holocaust Remembrance Day and in commemoration of the 66th anniversary of the liberation of  Auschwitz on January 27, 1945 was held in the Berney Theatre  on January 27, sponsored by B’nai Brith Canada, Mid-West Region. The event was chaired by Belle Millo, Chairperson of the Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre. 

At the outset of the event Alan Yusum, director of  B’nai Brith Mid-west region, spoke about B’nai Brith’s annual Audit of Antisemitic incidents in  2010, compiled by  The League for Human Rights

‘We are not just a database – we monitor, act and reflect the concerns of the community,’ he said.

“Antisemitism exists everywhere…. Canada’s experience is a reflection of what’s happening in democracies globally. The examples we see globally are paralleled here in Canada – maybe not on the same scale, but we cannot breathe a sigh of relief. Whether vandalism or violence, the language is ugly and the vitriol is stout. On any day we may see footage of terror campaigns around the world; Canada not immune here either.   Two weeks ago, six Jewish institutions in the Montreal area were targeted in a wave of antisemitic violence.”

Yusim also spoke of B’nai Brith’s National Task Force on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research which was established to bring Canada into the ITF (Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research).

“ It is a three year project that is funded by the Canadian government. The first big project that has come out of the NTF is Welcome to Canada?, a student resource geared toward high school students. The NTF meets twice a year and includes representatives from the government, researchers, educators, museum curators and NGOs… Welcome to Canada?, is a  new student resource on Canadian immigration policy. which looks back to see which groups have been welcomed and which have been turned away. Welcome to Canada? wants students to understand how policy is made. The idea of the text is to reach out to students to help them understand how decisions are made in Canada, and encourage them to get involved. ..A Teacher’s Guide complements this new resource that will be distributed widely throughout Manitoba and Canada in both English and French via free classroom sets as part of the initial pilot project.”

After Yusim’s remarks, Belle Millo delivered remarks that are set out in full below:

“ Sixty-six years ago, on January 27, 1945, when Soviet troops finally arrived at Auschwitz concentration camp, only 7,650 prisoners remained. Most of these were very ill and near death. SS units had already forced nearly 60,000 prisoners on a death march west from the Auschwitz camp system. Thousands of other prisoners had been killed in the preceding days.  Deportations of Jews to Auschwitz began in 1942 from cities, towns, villages, ghettos and camps throughout Europe, and even remote Mediterranean islands. Over 1.1 million of them - men, women and children - were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. This represented almost 85% of the total number of victims, which is now estimated to be 1.3 million.

“In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly designated January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, an annual day of commemoration to honor the victims of the Nazi era. Four year later, on April 2, 2009, the European Parliament in Brussels passed the “European Conscience and Totalitarianism” resolution, calling for the proclamation of August 23 as a “Europe-wide Remembrance Day for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, to be commemorated with dignity and impartiality.” According to the text of this European Union resolution, …”from the outset, European integration has been a response to the suffering inflicted by two world wars and the Nazi tyranny that led to the Holocaust and to the expansion of totalitarian and undemocratic Communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as a way of overcoming deep divisions and hostility in Europe through cooperation and integration and of ending war and securing democracy in Europe…”

“However, the choice of August 23 to mark the date of a Europe-wide Remembrance Day as opposed to January 27, the date of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviets was not an arbitrary one. It marks the date of the infamous Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, the non-aggression pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany that was signed on August 23, 1939. The treaty also included a secret protocol, which would divide Northern and Eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence. Soon after the pact was signed, Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east and the west, carving up the country as agreed upon.

“As you know, Holocaust denial and revisionism grows with each passing year, a cancer which spreads not only through the mouth of the likes of Ahmadinejad and his ilk but is now being developed into something of a hybrid in the former Soviet Bloc countries. I will explain what I mean by this: In an effort – if not to equate, than at least to shift partial blame on the shoulders of the Soviets, these countries are seeking to - at the very least - blur the lines between the crimes of the Nazis and the Soviets. Today, on January 27th, we remember the Soviets as liberators. Instead, as Europeans mark the August 23 date, the Soviets become demonized and as a result, collaborators suddenly become victims. Despite the fact that the European resolution makes note of the Shoah’s uniqueness, there is no doubt that as a result of the revisionism that ensues from the resolution – in other words – the metamorphosis of collaborators into victims  - this uniqueness is affected and I would suggest diminished. To take it even further, one must not forget that the old canard that Bolshevism was nothing but a Jewish plot still exists and is especially popular in the former Soviet Bloc countries. It is therefore quite simple for Antisemites in these countries to make the leap that Jews must have been complicit in the Soviet mass murder of Christians. Jews therefore join the Soviets as perpetrators. Therefore, the sinister implications of choosing this date over January 27 to mark an annual Remembrance Day cannot be ignored.

“We must protect the memory of six million men, women and children and of all the other innocent victims Zichronam livracha. We must continue to honour their memory by fighting against revisionism and denial in all forms of the horrific crimes of the Nazis. – E’mach Shmam.

Following Millo’s remarks there was a candle lighting ceremony, with six  candles lit by Rabbi Pinsker of  Shaarey Zedek Synagogue , Rev. Milton Chambers,  of the Truth and Life Worship Centre and Rev. Rudy Fidel of Faith Temple. El Malei Rachamim and Kaddish were recited, led by Bill Weissmann of  Shaarey Zedek.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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