Halfway through a workshop aboard a “Tour for Humanity” bus Monday, a Grade 7 student asked facilitator Elena Kingsbury what happened to young children at concentration camps during the Holocaust.
“Unfortunately,” Kingsbury replied, “they were usually killed right away.”
She explained that most of the kids under age 13 who arrived at the camps were considered by the Nazis as useless and expendable because they couldn't participate in forced labour.
The group's teacher then spoke up to put that information into perspective, reminding the 20 or so Grade 6/7 Notre Dame Catholic School students that each one of them is currently under age 13.
It was one of the most poignant moments of the 45-minute workshop, which covered several historical topics including the Holocaust – during which an estimated 1.5 million children, most of them Jews, were killed by Nazi actions.
The students also watched a video and heard audio about the Indian residential school system in Canada and slavery in the United States and Canada.
Kingsbury said the story of the Holocaust can be used as a teaching tool to help children understand why it's so dangerous “to allow hatred or fear to guide our humanity and our attitudes or actions towards others.”
Discussing information like the fate of kids at concentration camps and the assimilation of Aboriginal children at residential schools helps the children to relate more to those past events.
The Tour for Humanity, an initiative of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies in Toronto, is intended to inspire and empower people of all ages and backgrounds to raise their voices and take action against hate and intolerance, bullying and to promote justice and human rights.