January 27 marks the 77th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp where more than a million people were murdered.
The Calgary Jewish Federation (CJF) is marking the event by hosting a webinar focused on combating anti-Semitism. CJF Vice President Lisa Libin said it is an ongoing issue.
“Sadly it’s an endless job,” said Libin. “We’re continuing to see anti-Semitism rates rise both locally and internationally. We’re seeing an increase in the percentage of people who know very little or nothing at all about the Holocaust.”
International Holocaust Remembrance Day comes at a time when some people are comparing COVID-19 vaccine mandates to the conditions of the Holocaust.
The yellow star — the same symbol used to identify the Jewish community during the Holocaust — can be seen worn at protests across the world.
“It’s a ridiculous, disgusting and ignorant comparison,” explained Libin. “The fact that people think that this is acceptable shows how much work we still have to do.”
Libin thinks that work starts with educating students about the Holocaust at a younger age but the data shows that is not happening.
Dr. Andrea Webb, an associate professor of teaching at the University of British Colombia, said those numbers are disheartening.
“We want to make this so that students understand how important the Holocaust is and how important the study of genocide is,” said Webb. “But we don’t want to overwhelm them with the human tragedy, which is a huge part of what’s going on here.”
She said education surrounding genocide can start at an early age as long as the lessons are taught in ways young students can understand.
“When we’re talking about the universal experience of people being unkind to each other and ostracizing people for differences, then that starts really young,” said Webb.
Libin added parents can also help by pointing out situations that reference the Holocaust, especially when they’re being improperly used out of context.
“If you walk into a restaurant and you see somebody make a comment that they’re bringing out their ‘yellow star’ when they have to show their proof of vaccine, you need to say something,” said Libin. “We need those voices to say that is not okay.”
There’s also a number of resources available through the CJF and the Calgary Public Library, including an exhibit at the central branch titled “Star Without a Heaven – Children in the Holocaust”. That exhibit runs until January 31.