International Holocaust Remembrance Day which falls on the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp by the Soviet army on January 27, 1945 was marked locally with a ceremony at Ottawa City Hall on January 26.
The ceremony was held the day before the anniversary because it fell on a Saturday this year.
“We should take every possible opportunity to remember the Holocaust and educate about it,” said event MC Daniel Stringer of the Wallenberg Citation Initiative.
“Today, with hate rising globally, it’s important to remember the victims of the Holocaust and teach tolerance,” said Mayor Jim Watson in his remarks.
During the ceremony Watson presented a proclamation from the City of Ottawa marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day to the Centre of Holocaust Education and Scholarship (CHES) at Carleton University which was accepted by CHES committee member Annette Wildgoose, a child of a Holocaust survivor from Germany.
CHES Director Mina Cohn said this was the first time such a proclamation was made in Ottawa.
“Mayor Watson also urged all citizens of Ottawa to commemorate this day to honour all victims of the Nazis,” said Cohn. “With anti-Semitism on the rise, the mayor’s proclamation is clearly very meaningful.”
“I was lucky to find good people who risked their lives to save me and my family,” said Holocaust survivor Vera Gara at the ceremony. “They were ordinary, common people and they have to be honoured. This is why I wrote the book, The Least Expected Heroes of the Holocaust.” Gara’s book, now in its third edition, champions those who helped Jewish people despite great danger to themselves.
“We see the current rise in anti-Semitism and xenophobia today and ask ‘where did it come from?’” said Rebecca Bosloy, Vera’s granddaughter, during the ceremony.
“How do we confront these things?” she asked.
Rebecca said the answer is education and noted that her grandmother Vera Gara has been devoted to visiting classrooms to help provide Holocaust education over the years.
“We need to turn on the lights and see that there’s nothing to be afraid of,” said Rebecca.
“Rebecca reminded us that we do live in difficult times and that we have to stand up against it,” said Stringer in reference to rising levels of hatred in today’s world.
“We’re passing the torch [for Holocaust education] from survivors to the second and third generations,” he said.
Kaddish was recited by Rabbi Eytan Kenter and all in attendance joined in the international campaign to create collective solidarity for Holocaust remembrance by being photographed holding signs reading, “We Remember.” The photos were shared globally on social media.
The ceremony was co-sponsored by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, CHES, the Embassy of Israel, and the Wallenberg Citation Initiative.