On Tuesday, hours after sharing his story on Yom HaShoah with 550 high school students in Saskatchewan, Holocaust Survivor Amek Adler passed away.
A native of Lublin and Lodz, Amek was an Auschwitz-Birkenau Survivor and member of CIJA’s partner organization, the Canadian Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants (CJHSD).
When liberated at age 16 in 1945, Amek weighed 76 pounds and was to remain in hospital for three months. He later went to Italy where he worked with a clandestine organization transporting Jewish refugees to British Mandate Palestine leading up to the State of Israel’s establishment in 1948. After some time spent in Sweden, Amek immigrated to Canada in 1954.
For years, Amek served as a leader of the Jewish War Veterans and accompanied the March of the Living High School trip to Poland. His writings from the ghetto and camps are chilling. Looking back, Amek once reflected: “We fought every day and every night, every minute and every hour to be alive and survive.”
With Amek’s passing, another candle has been extinguished from among the finest of our people. We bid another sad farewell to an extraordinary Jew who, despite having endured the darkest hell on earth, rebuilt his life in Canada and selflessly devoted his years to preserving the memory of the Shoah and its victims.
It is remarkable that, on the day he died, Amek was scheduled to present his experiences to an audience in Regina. He made it his mission – literally to his last day – to warn the next generation of the dangers of indifference toward antisemitism and hatred in all its forms.
William Faulkner once said that “the past is never dead; it’s not even past.” When it comes to Holocaust education, this is only true to the extent that we continue the life’s work of Amek and the entire Survivor community.
From a public policy perspective, this means remaining steadfast in our efforts to push European governments to provide restitution for Jewish property and assets stolen during World War II. For Survivors who lost everything, this remains a fundamental matter of justice that demands resolution.
We have engaged parliamentarians to make this a priority, and we are pleased that successive Canadian governments have urged European governments to pass restitution laws. Parallel to these efforts, CIJA has worked with the CJHSD to carry this message directly to European embassies in Ottawa.
While we have seen some success – such as the recent passage of legislation in Serbia to provide restitution – this vital work is far from complete. If you are a Survivor, have a family connection to the Shoah, or are simply moved by this issue, I encourage you to reach out to us to get involved.
May Amek Adler’s memory be a blessing. And while we cannot replace the voice our community has lost this week with Amek’s passing, may we never weaken in our resolve to support our Survivors, preserve the legacy of those no longer with us, and educate others about the Shoah.
David J. Cape, Chair
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs