Students peered into humanity's dark past during Tuesday's 2017 Holocaust and Genocide Symposium.
With guests from Brentwood, Queen Margaret's and Brookes Shawnigan Lake on hand, students absorbed crucial lessons about conflict and genocide throughout human history.
"It's never easy to sit here for three hours and learn about the horrific actions of the past," said Shawnigan Head of Social Studies, Tom Lupton, as he opened the discussion. "As the promise of 'never again' is broken time and time again, we turn to the Holocaust for navigational points on the moral compasses that we use as individuals, nations, and global citizens."
Tuesday's program began with a presentation from Grade 12 students Hayley W. and Drew G., who provided an overview of genocides both historical and current, including the ongoing Syrian genocide and Canada's involvement both at home and abroad.
Featured speaker Dr. Alan Whitehorn then presented the audience with historical context, beginning with genocides that occurred long before the current language of genocide was created. With examples ranging from Ancient Greece to the conquest of indigenous peoples in North America, Dr. Whitehorn said "Human history is filled with cruelty." He explained how genocide differs from other horrific acts of cruelty and crimes of war, by being directed at a particular group – often ethnic, national, religious, or racial. He admitted that one of his biggest challenges as a genocide expert is teaching Canadian students that their own ancestors are guilty of allowing, or even committing, these atrocities. "We must resist the sin of indifference," he said. "We must reach out and help others. It’s our only hope to survive on this precious planet."
After a brief but enlightening summary of the Holocaust and Europe's historical discrimination against Jews, Tom Lupton then passed the floor to Dr. Robert Krell, himself a Holocaust survivor.
Dr. Krell told students about how he had been born in 1940 in the Netherlands, touching on the kindnesses he was shown by family members, neighbours and strangers alike. "I fought for every scrap of my memory," he told students, sharing recollections about his parents and his experiences while hidden away. Saying "I was the world's most excited immigrant," Dr. Krell also told about how he moved to Canada in 1951, and the journey that took him to a career in psychiatry, often treating patients whose families had been affected by the Holocaust.
Both Dr. Whitehorn and Dr. Krell took questions from the students, ranging from the political and social climate during the Holocaust to threats to global security today.
The Symposium then concluded with a candlelight tribute, as Shawnigan student Hazel B. stressed that each of the six million people killed during the Holocaust had individual lives, names, families, passions and dreams.
The Shawnigan Holocaust and Genocide Symposium is presented in partnership with the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, and supported by Zev Shafran ’74.
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