Today, Tour for Humanity was in Bradford at an elementary Catholic school. This was our first time visiting and they booked the program through the recommendation of a teacher who had invited Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) to bring this program to another local school last year. FSWC Educator Elena worked with students from Grades 4-8 and taught two sections of Simon's Story and two of the Canadian Experience. The best part about the day was the enthusiasm and curiosity in all of the workshops taught. Elena was really blown away by the students' interest in the material.
The Grade 7 students that came in workshop #3 asked dozens of questions about the Holocaust and would have continued if Elena hadn't needed to cover Canadian history as well. Most students knew very little about Judaism or the history of Jewish people in Europe and no one seemed familiar with the word antisemitism so Elena spent time explaining the long-standing persecution of Jews leading into World War II and how normalized it was in Europe and beyond.
The school had a large Portuguese population so several students wanted to know about Portugal's role in World War II and the Holocaust. Elena explained that under the dictatorship of Antonio Salazar, Portugal decided to remain neutral during the war, although they did end up allying with Britain and allowing American troops to enter Europe through the territory. The port of Lisbon also became one of the only ways to exit Europe during the war and hundreds of thousands of people were able to escape because of this. The Italian students in the group, however, seemed disappointed to learn that Italy began the war as Germany's ally.
Each workshop was concluded with the video about the path forward from hatred through our resources and the fact that each student is capable of changing the world, which naturally leads to our Speaker's Idol video and the fact that speaking publicly on human rights issues they are passionate about is an excellent way to start.