This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

National Holocaust Monument, Ottawa, Canada -- "Never To Forget"

"I am gratified to be a witness today to this momentous occasion when Canada unveils a striking and evocative monument to the Holocaust."
"It is a fitting tribute to the victims, the survivors, and to the Canadians who took part in defeating the Nazis."
Eva Kuper, 76, Holocaust survivor  

"It has been an exercise in patience, which is something we've [Jews] learned over the course of the centuries [to endure]."
"It has always hurt me as a Canadian when I would go somewhere and be asked why we [Canada] don't have a Holocaust memorial in the capital [in comparison to other western democracies]. I no longer have to apologize and say, 'It's a lamentable thing'."
Rabbi Rueven Bulka

"Having this place to go to is so important. I think about all of the survivors who still now carry the burden of remembering and telling the story."
"Now, finally, there's this monument that will talk for them when they're not here [no longer alive]."
Mina Cohn, director, Centre for Holocaust Education and Scholarship, Carleton University 
A man stops to take a photograph of the Canadian National Holocaust Monument following its official opening ceremony on Wednesday Sept. 27, 2017. Adrian Wyld, The Canadian Press

Canada, lauding itself under the current Liberal-led government, as a bulwark against racism, and boasting under current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that "Canada is back" as a bastion of human rights and a champion of equality and multiculturalism, has a deeper, darker history of discrimination and offences against human rights in the not-so-distant past. Its rejection of a ship full of Sikhs on the Komagata Maru in 1914 represents one of its shameful episodes of failing to respond to the need of desperate people seeking haven.

The incarceration of Japanese 'enemy aliens' who were in fact loyal Canadian citizens, when during World War II they were deprived of their material possessions, all their properties, businesses, homes, and placed in holding camps for the duration of the war lest they somehow give aid and comfort to wartime Imperial Japan was yet another event of shame. As was the head tax imposed on Chinese seeking a stable home in Canada, where it was fine to use them as virtual slave labourers building vast and hazardous cross-country rail lines, but not to honour them as citizens.

Perhaps the country's most infamous and wretched event of dismissing the desperate attempts of targeted people to escape death, was the country's rejection of the pleas of an estimated 900 Jewish men, women and children attempting to escape Nazi Germany's reach as they tried to find haven in Cuba (which had initially agreed to land them, then refused), and then sailed to the United States where they were similarly rejected. Canada too saw fit to have these Jews return to Europe to face their deadly fate. Some were accepted by the U.K., Belgium, France and Holland; 500 were returned to Germany.

That the Holocaust memorial was built at all resulted from the activism of an 18-year-old public administration student at the University of Ottawa, Laura Grosman, back in 2007, whose outrage when she found that Canada's lack of recognition of the suffering of Jews during the holocaust led her to lobby federal politicians that legislation be enacted to have such a memorial built. Tim Uppal, a Conservative Member of Parliament, a Sikh from Edmonton, launched a private member's bill and it became law in March 2011.

A campaign to raise the funds, fifty percent from public subscription and fifty percent from government coffers was undertaken. A selection jury in 2014 awarded the monument's design to a team including architect Daniel Libeskind, landscape architect Claude Cormier, photographer Edward Burtynsky, and University of Toronto historian Doris Bergen, whose winning design held the title: Landscape of Loss, Memory and Survival, which features six triangular concrete structures creating the points of a star.

Eventually, post-war, an estimated 40,000 European Jews, survivors of the Holocaust, were accepted as refugees to Canada. Their numbers are now fast-dwindling, and it is their children and their grandchildren who carry the memory of what the survivors experienced. Eva Kuper was only two years old when she and her mother were ordered onto a train  from the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland, where a cattle car was to take them to Treblinka. Her mother was put to death within an hour of her arrival at the extermination camp.

Two-year-old Eva Kuper was plucked from the cattle car parked on the rails before it left, returned to her father in the Warsaw Ghetto where eventually both escaped through the sewer system, and Eva survived to tell of what she had witnessed and to live a haunted life of dreadful memories. Monochromatic photographs of Holocaust sites where six million Jews were systematically exterminated by Nazi Germany along with Roma, homosexuals and the physically and mentally handicapped, form part of the memorial.

Jews, world-wide, pledged, post-Holocaust "Never to Forget".

National Holocaust Monument, Ottawa, Canada

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