High schoolers don’t know about the Holocaust

Student Romina Hassid thanks Holocaust survivor Margrit Stenge with a card signed by the 50 participants of the Morning of Silence.

“Most of the kids here did not know what the Holocaust was. We spoke about the war, but we spoke about invasions and battles, never about Jews and concentration camps. I spoke to my friends and they couldn’t even pronounce the word Holocaust,” said École secondaire des Sources Grade 11 student Romina Hassid.

Hassid, one of a small group of Jewish students at the French high school, herself had experienced instances of anti-Semitism growing up.

“When I was in Secondary I, once I picked up a penny and people started throwing coins on the floor for me to pick up and they were like ‘ha ha, the Jewish girl’. Even now, sometimes I see people picking up coins and they are not necessarily Jewish but people will then say ‘Oh, you are so Jewish’ for picking up the coin,” she said.

Hassid, as part of a personal project in conjunction with the École secondaire des Sources’ International Baccalaureate programme, recently coordinated a Morning of Silence at the school to sensitize her peers about the dangers of oppression, the importance of tolerance and to inform them of the horrors of the Holocaust.

8,344

In 2011, there were 85 Holocaust survivor testimonies in schools across Quebec reaching 8,344 students.

51 %

Last year, 7,184 students visited the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre, making up 51% of all the Centre’s visitors.

“The goal of the event is to sensitize today’s youth and to give kids a chance to learn about oppression by experiencing it first-hand,” Hassid said, explaining that as part of the morning, 50 student volunteers wore tape over their mouths as a symbol of oppression and remained silent for three hours. “I was inspired by my elementary school, JPPS, where we did something like this a few years ago. I thought it would be a great opportunity to show what liberty of expression is and what it feels like not to have it and that’s why the students have to stay silent.”

With coordination help from Federation CJA West Island, participants viewed the Holocaust film Hannah’s Suitcase and then heard a moving testimony from Holocaust survivor Margrit Stenge.

“I think they know a lot more now about what went on and what people had to do to get away or else they would die. I really felt it was important because people did not know. I wanted to make people aware of what happened because I don’t want this to die and repeat itself. And it is repeating itself, besides. There have been a lot more genocides,” Hassid said. “I never really participated in any Jewish community events, although I did go to a Jewish elementary school. I think {Federation CJA West Island} made my job so much easier and I thank everyone very much.

There was a really positive response. There are many teachers that came. They weren’t forced to come, they chose to come themselves. It was a wonderful project and it was a great thing that it happened. And it wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have the support of the Jewish community.”


Learn more

For more information on Holocaust educational resources, teachers can contact the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre at 514.345.2605 or can visit the MHMC’s resources page.

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