Bringing the hope home
U of R students hope more students can share in their Holocaust education experience overseas
In today’s day and age, it’s almost impossible to fathom the cruelty of the Holocaust. It’s something that students learn about in textbooks, but cannot really grasp. That changed this past spring for a handful of University of Regina students.
From May 25 to June 3, five U of R students participated in the March for Remembrance and Hope, a program put on by the Canadian Centre for Diversity that encourages leadership and social change. The march takes 60 students each year to Germany and Poland for tours of Nazi concentration camps, where they get to meet Holocaust survivors.
One participant, education student Kyle Caron, found the experience to be both educational and emotional. He said he always had an avid interest in the Holocaust, and found it surreal to tour the areas he learned about in history books.
“It was an experience in lots of different ways,” he said. “I’m also getting a degree in history, so in that perspective it was really cool for the first time to see history firsthand. To actually be in Treblinka, Majdanek, or Auschwitz-Birkenau, it’s really cool to be in a place where history happened.
“On a completely different side, there is an emotional component to it, where you’re in these concentration camps, but you’re there with Holocaust survivors: people who’ve physically been there before. It’s a feeling you can’t duplicate.”
Caron believes that this experience has changed him for the better. Although there were definitely educational components to the trip, he claimed that the largest extent of the learning was about internal.
“The real learning was about myself,” he said. “The experience itself changed me in a lot of different ways. It made me realize the things that I needed to do in order to contribute more to society.
“We felt really indebted by what we were allowed to witness and what we were allowed to be a part of. That made me feel like it was really important to give back, and maybe become more involved in community events than I had been in the past. To be honest, my involvement in the university had been show up, go to class, go home, and maybe go to the Owl on Friday.”
Now, Caron and the other students want give back to the Canadian Centre for Diversity and the March for Remembrance. On Saturday, they’re planning to host a fundraiser to raise money and awareness for Holocaust education.
“The first part is a steak night,” Caron explained. “We’re trying to raise money for the March for Remembrance and Hope and the Canadian Centre for diversity, so that more students can have the experience that we were fortunate to have. That’s our way of giving back to a program that has offered us so much.”
The second half of the evening includes a presentation by Holocaust historian and the director of community relations for the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, Shelley Faintuch, who is also a documentary filmmaker. Her documentary, Silent Echoes, has been accepted by Yad Vashem, an organization
that documents all aspects of the history of the Jewish people during the Holocaust.
Caron believes that, although the events of the Holocaust happened over half-a-century ago, the issues are still relevant in contemporary society. This is why he believes it’s important that students educate themselves on the history of the Holocaust.
“It’s important to take the lessons and events of the Holocaust and try and draw them and compare them to the way our society is today, and to realize the issues of oppression and social distancing that didn’t end with the Holocaust,” Caron explained. “Anti-Semitism isn’t expressed the same way that it used to be, but anti-Semitism, in regards to the denying of Israel as a state, and what’s happening over there, its interesting and kind of a different route that anti-Semitism has taken.”
Even after all the darkness of the tragedy, Caron said that he took away a different message, a message of hope.
“To be there with Holocaust survivors, as they were telling us their stories, and being in this place, was a really surreal experience,” he said. “But having so much of it, at the end of it, being about hope, and the triumph of the human spirit through the Holocaust being the most important thing, and having that being separate from the tragedy that the Holocaust was.”
Caron encourages people to come check out the Holocaust education evening, as the proceeds will help others that want to experience the March of Remembrance and Hope.