Today T4H was in Richmond Hill at an elementary school for the second day of workshops this week. We taught 6 workshops, 1 Simon's Story adapted to a group of grade 6's and 5 of the Canadian Experience for grade 7-8's.
It was a pleasure to have so many curious students in each workshop of the day.As always we had many questions about Hitler's strange personality, the reasons behind his hatred of Jewish people, and the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death. We also had a number of students who had a much deeper level of knowledge around WWII and their questions had Elena on her toes! One student wanted to know if Operation Sealion, Nazi Germany's plan to invade Great Britain after the fall of France in 1940, ever actually happened. Another wanted to know if Hong Kong had surrendered to the Japanese military or if it was invaded, so we explained that Hong Kong was invaded by Japan, leading to the Battle for Hong Kong, a battle that Canadian soldiers played an important role in. Japan ultimately won the battle and so Hong Kong surrendered. Many students were of Chinese and Korean descent, which lead to many questions throughout the day about the Pacific theatre of the war.
We also covered more of WWII in the Canadian history portion of the workshop.Students were disappointed to learn that Canada had denied entry to more than 900 Jewish refugees aboard the S.S. St. Louis, a stain on our history that PM Trudeau has just apologized for. We also talked about PM Harper's apology to Indigenous Canadians for the crimes of the Residential School system and the importance of our leaders acknowledging the crimes of the past in order to move forward as a unified nation.
We showed the Speaker's Idol video in each workshop and provided a flyer about the event to the principal first this morning.
FSWC also hosted a wonderful group of Grade 10 and1 1 high school students from a Catholic school in Mississauga in our education centre to take part in the Roots ofHate and Intolerance workshop as well as to listen to Vera Schiff’s incredible story of survival in the afternoon.
During the morning portion of the workshop, Daniella and Emily covered various elements of Canadian history that are often overlooked and underrepresented in our classrooms. The students were very surprised by just how many different minority groups were targeted, discriminated, and mistreated by our own government. With the S.S. St. Louis apology occurring in Ottawa this afternoon,we were able to make a great link with how the trauma of this discrimination still reverberates in our world and in Canadian society. The organizing teacher for today has been very involved in scheduling and preparing multiple different classes who will be coming into the centre this month. She was so pleased with the material we covered, as she was linking many of the aspects of the workshop to upcoming assignments.
In the afternoon we were joined by Survivor Vera Schiff, who spoke about her experiences as a Jewish child in Prague, and as a young woman held captive in Theresienstadt. She spoke about how today was the anniversary of Kristallnatcht, and how that day was a turning point for Jews in Europe. She ended her speech with a very moving sentiment about how the students here in front of her gave her hope. She said that every day is about looking for that one glimmer of sunshine, and being able to share her story with young people was her sunshine. She admitted that sometimes life gave people troubling times,but part of being human means knowing that there is always the promise of tomorrow.