From November 2 to November 9, the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre hosted the thirty-fourth year of Holocaust Education Week (HEW) throughout the GTA.
The week of events featured scholarly lectures, film screenings, music and art exhibits, literary panels, and about 30 Canadian Holocaust survivors sharing their testimonies.
This year, the week explored “the distinct ways in which individuals, groups and governments collaborated during the Shoah,” according to the HEW 2014 program guide.
Doris Bergen, Chancellor Rose and Ray Wolfe professor of Holocaust studies at U of T, said that hearing the stories of survivors has a strong impact on many participants
As HEW’s scholar-in-residence, Bergen helped realize this year’s theme of collaboration.
The theme served as a starting point for conversation — simultaneously conjuring up ideas of betrayal and resistance.
Nearly all of the week’s events were free and open to the public, with several taking place on the St. George campus.
Annette Wieviorka, the emeritus director of research at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, gave a lecture called “Inside the Drancy Camp.”
The Drancy camp, near Paris, was a stopping point for thousands of Jews, who felt the ever-present threat of deportation to death camps.
Wieviorka examined daily life in the camp and the paradoxes it presented, including “despair and hunger… alongside a vibrant cultural life,” according to the HEW 2014 program guide.
New College hosted a lecture that examined Nazi doctors and the persecution of gay men.
James Waller, the Cohen chair of Holocaust and genocide studies at Keene State College, examined the cultural, psychological, and social factors that contributed to the persecution and atrocities faced by gay men under the Third Reich.
Another panel discussion at the First Narayever Congregation featured three survivors: one of the Holocaust in Poland, one of the Rwandan genocide, and one of the residential schools for First Nations children.
Their stories offered the audience parallels between different, but nonetheless devastating, experiences.
Similar threads were woven throughout the survivors’ narratives — that educated perpetrators who knew what they were doing committed the atrocities.
The speakers also offered hope, encouraging audience members to stand up rather than stand by, to speak up, and to tell the truth.
Bergen reflected on the goals of HEW and the learning experience it provided.
To her, keeping the dialogue alive is how the field of Holocaust studies will continue. “That’s the whole point… to get everyone together in the same room, to share multiple perspectives,” she said.