Today Tour for Humanity was deep in farm country between the small towns of Winchester and Chesterville at a Grades 7-12 school serving several rural communities. The organizing teacher has been trying to get Tour for Humanity at her school since last year and she was thrilled that we finally came. Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) Educator Elena saw 5 groups of students and taught 4 workshops of Global Perspectives on Genocide to Grades 10-12 students and one Canadian Experience workshop to a Grade 8 class.
The students were at times quiet but very attentive and respectful. Much of the material covered in the workshop was new information for them. Elena still had some very insightful questions and comments, especially in the first workshop of the day. There was one student who had extensive knowledge about the Holocaust and Josef Mengele's experiments in particular. In the same workshop we also had a very meaningful conversation about the cultural genocide against Canada's Indigenous peoples. The class was a Grade 11 Native Studies course and Elena mentioned the policy of "adopting out" native children that coincided with residential schools and other assimilation programs. The teacher spoke up and shared with us that her sister was adopted out of her family through that very policy.
FSWC was also invited to a public school in Keswick today to present a Lessons and Legacies of the Holocaust workshop to close to 100 Grades 7 and 8 students. The school hosted Tour for Humanity last year and all of the students in attendance today participated had in our Canadian Experience workshop on the bus. This meant they already had a solid foundation on the Holocaust.
FSWC Educator Daniella began by debriefing with students, sparking their memories to share what they remembered from last year. When Daniella asked what came to mind with the word “Holocaust” - answers included “Jewish people being killed,” “concentration camps” and “Nazis.”
Daniella took the group through a more detailed history of antisemitism and Hitler’s rise to power. There were plenty of questions throughout the workshop, including one student who asked whether or not Hitler could have been impeached after becoming Chancellor.
At the end of the workshop, following a brief break for students to take in what they had learned, Holocaust survivor Gershon Willinger spoke to the group about his experiences as a child in the Westerbork and Bergen Belsen Concentration Camps.