Website launched for Holocaust survivors to share stories
BY JENNY YUEN, TORONTO SUN
FIRST POSTED: WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2016 09:37 PM EDT | UPDATED: WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2016 10:40 PM EDT
Avi Benlolo with St. Angela Catholic School group at a Freedom Day event at Dundas Square in Toronto Sept. 28, 2016. (Supplied)
TORONTO - As first-hand memories of the Holocaust fade, the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center hopes a website launched Wednesday will help lessons learned from its horrors endure.
The non-profit human rights organization announced the new site following a Freedom Day event at Dundas Square attended by more than 3,000 people.
NeverForgetMe.ca is a place where Holocaust survivors can share their stories. For now, there are six accounts from survivors — five of whom appeared onstage at Freedom Day — for teachers and students to learn from.
“Holocaust denial is getting more prevalent each day,” Avi Benlolo, the centre’s president and CEO, said. “On our social networking pages, we get people posting comments about the Holocaust, calling it things like ‘Holohoax’ and ‘Did six million Jews really die?’ A decade ago, you wouldn’t see anything like that. ... How do we keep telling people it’s the truth?”
During the two-hour Freedom Day event, in its seventh year, political activist and ex-child soldier Emmanuel Jal, diversity advocate Saman Alavi and women’s health champion Dr. Toni Zhong delivered heartfelt speeches to the crowd.
“We wanted to mark Simon Wiesenthal’s passing in September (2005),” Benlolo said. “One of his famous sayings was ‘Freedom is not a gift from heaven — you must fight for it every day.’ We have to educate the public at large about the incredible freedom we have in Canada, but on the other side, the not-so-free societies that others around the world endure, because we sometimes take it for granted.”
Benlolo said the centre also plans on expanding its work across Ontario with its Tour for Humanity Mobile Tolerance Centre, which educates 200 students a day as it makes pit stops in front of schools.
“We’re working with a lot of First Nations communities and we go up north to really small towns, where resources and knowledge about the Holocaust and about other genocides (are scarce),” he said.
“(Students get to) think about heroes like Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi and Mother Teresa, who have taken things into their own hands and have done good. That’s the message.”