Tour for Humanity is back on the road! Today was the first of a two day visit for the Tour for Humanity at a greater Toronto area public school and Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) educator Elena was working with all of the Grades 3-5 students. The kids were very attentive once they understood the seriousness of the topic. There was a lot of variation in how much students knew about the Holocaust, from the Grade 3s who knew virtually nothing (most didn’t respond even when Elena asked if they had heard of Hitler), to a handful of Grade 5s who knew a ton about World War II. Elena really emphasized the connection between bullying and the concept of the bystander effect. The Speaker's Idol video was a powerful component at the end of the workshop because it is a natural progression from the larger context of history to the idea that they can each take steps to change the world right now. It is a concrete example of a way to get involved. Most of the students are too young for Speaker's Idol right now but they won't be in a year or two!
As is often the case, the questions Elena was asked throughout the day reflected a lot about various students’ personal experiences. There were a number of Jewish students at the school and many of them had family members who had survived World War II. For other students, the idea of the Holocaust was harder to grasp. As always, kids in this age group are shocked to learn that children like themselves were targeted. One young man impressed Elena with his knowledge about European geography and asked a question she had never heard before: he wanted to know if Hitler was Serbian. Elena explained that Hitler was not from Serbia, but Austria, and that Serbia was invaded by Germany, not a willing ally of Germany. Elena also said that just because a country fought against Hitler/Nazism doesn’t mean that they never committed any other crimes and that we can’t divide countries into heroes and villains.