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Canada Plays Integral Role in This Year’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Professor Doris Bergen gives compelling lecture on expressions of guilt in survivor accounts

By: Daniel Koren
Published: January 31st, 2013 in News » World
Professor Doris Bergen

On January 27th, 2005 – the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau – the United Nations decreed it would henceforth be known as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, to memorialize and remember the victims of the Nazi era.

Since than, every member state of the UN participates in promoting educational awareness on this day, in a bid to prevent further genocides.

This year, in a joint effort between UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre, and the Centre for Jewish Studies at University of Toronto, residents of Toronto had the opportunity to hear the esteemed Chancellor Rose and Ray Wolfe Professor of Holocaust Studies at University of Toronto, Doris Bergen, present a lecture on survivor testimony.

In attendance sat some of Canada’s key political figures, including former MP Mario Silva, Mark Adler, MP, and Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, who gave a compelling address on Canada’s commitment to Holocaust education, and its new leadership role in the field by chairing the International Alliance of Holocaust Remembrance (IHRA) in 2013. Honey Sherman, Chair, and Mira Goldfarb, Executive Director, of the Neuberger Centre, commended Canada’s undertaking and announced that the Neuberger’s Holocaust Education Week 2013 would be presented together with the University of Toronto in conjunction with the IHRA international delegates conference. Toronto’s Holocaust Education Week has been recognized as best practice in the field by the IHRA (formerly ITF) for the last two years.

For almost an hour, Dr. Bergen analyzed and identified aspects of guilt, blame and shame found in various survivor testimonials and excerpts from biographies. Beginning with a passage from Italian literary icon Primo Levi, Bergen made her way across various survivor accounts that depict their remorse and regret at some of the decisions they were forced to make during their painful ordeal. She poignantly contrasted these with the absence of remorse and reflection in many perpetrator accounts.

Bergen concluded her lecture with a moving and thought-provoking theory; “Perhaps it’s important to remember survivors not as heroes or role models but as human beings: imperfect, unable to see the future, and knowing of the uncertainty of the choices we make. Perhaps it’s that recognition of humility that is the most important lesson we can take from thinking of guilt and blame.”

From the audience’s reaction, it was obvious that Bergen’s words would stay with them far beyond the end of her address.

Related articles: Canada, Holocaust Remerbrance Day, Doris Bergen, Survivor, World War II, Nazi
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