Calgary commemorates first official Holocaust Remembrance Day

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WATCH: Seventy-five years after the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, the City of Calgary is officially recognizing Jan. 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Blake Lough reports – Jan 27, 2020

Seventy-five years after the liberation of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the City of Calgary proclaimed Jan. 27, 2020 International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The date will be honoured annually going forward.

READ MORE: World leaders mark 75th anniversary of Auschwitz liberation, call on end to anti-Semitism

The proclamation was read by Mayor Naheed Nenshi at an afternoon ceremony in the atrium of city hall, where members of the Jewish community and busloads of schoolchildren gathered.

Holocaust survivor and Calgary resident Sid Cyngiser recalled his horrific experience being held in the notorious Treblinka extermination camp in Poland.

“I had endured three years of forced labour under the harshest and most inhumane conditions,” Cyngiser said.

“[I was] subjected to beatings, degradation, continual fear and constant hunger.”
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Cyngiser lost his mother, father and three sisters in the Holocaust. It’s estimated about six million Jews were killed between 1941 and 1945 as part of the Nazis’ so-called Final Solution.

READ MORE: ‘Never forget’: Preserving stories of the Holocaust as fewer survivors remain

In a news release, the city said it was important to proclaim an official day of remembrance because of the growing number of Canadians unfamiliar with the atrocities of the Holocaust.

“The city’s inclusion in this international movement is an effort to remind and educate Calgarians about the horrors of the Nazi-perpetrated genocide of the Jewish people and others that were imprisoned, tortured and murdered by the regime,” the release read.

“It is also an opportunity for education and dialogue around anti-Semitism in Calgary and around the world.”

READ MORE: Holocaust survivor’s son tells father’s story in his own words at Winnipeg Holocaust remembrance

A survey commissioned by the Azrieli Foundation that was published last year found that 15 per cent of Canadian adults weren’t sure if they had heard of the Holocaust. Twenty-two per cent of millennials and generation Z respondents (aged 18 to 34) said they were not familiar with the Holocaust.

Calgary Jewish Federation president Yannai Segal applauded the city’s recognition of the significant date.

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“As the world loses its first-hand knowledge of the horrors of the Holocaust to the passage of time, it is so important that humanity works together to ensure that this darkest moment in history is never forgotten,” Segal said.

The city has also set up a series of informative panels beside the main entrance to the municipal building, highlighting key points of what led to the genocide and how survivors tried to return to normal life following liberation.

“I think it’s important for [the kids] to learn of a world that was and that could be again,” Cyngiser said.

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