Descendants of Holocaust survivors in Ottawa recently met to connect, share experiences and find new ways to pass on the lessons of the worst genocide in human history—especially once their parents and other eyewitnesses are gone.
The informal gathering, at the home of second-generation descendant Batia Winer, was organized by the Centre for Holocaust Education and Scholarship (CHES). Some 30 people attended, mostly children and grandchildren of survivors, all recognizing that keeping the promise of “Never Again” will soon fall on their shoulders.
Five key themes emerged as the guests shared their reasons for participating.
First, several people said: “I want help to find my own voice within the Holocaust narrative.” Descendants wrestle with the message to convey: should they retell their parents/relatives’ experiences or add their own interpretation and how it contributed to their life choices?
Second, some spoke about a sense of obligation to their ancestors, to help create a better world from the ashes of the Holocaust. Simply put, said one, “I am interested in activism.”
A third goal is “to carry on the legacy of our families.” In particular, many descendants want to help their children learn more about their family’s history.
Fourth, we need to ensure that descendants can eventually speak about the Holocaust in schools, since most survivors are no longer alive or well enough to do so anymore. This was of particular concern to Elly Bollegraaf, a child survivor herself, who regularly speaks to students and is hoping a new generation can take over this crucial role. [Click here for Ms. Bollegraaf’s video testimonial].
Finally, participants from families who rarely or never spoke about the Holocaust are discovering their own backgrounds, and a thirst for more information and connections to others with a similar history. “I feel a deep loss not knowing my family history. I would like to meet with people who share this element in life,” said one.
Plans are underway for a Forum for Descendants of Survivors during Holocaust Education Month in November.
At CHES, we believe that Holocaust education is just the start; what YOU do matters in helping to eradicate antisemitism and racism, and in making Never Again truly meaningful.
For more information about CHES, the Descendants’ Group or future events, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
To support the Centre for Holocaust Education and Scholarship, click here.
About the Centre for Holocaust Education and Scholarship (CHES)
Founded in 2015, the Centre for Holocaust Education and Scholarship is based at Carleton University’s Zelikovitz Centre for Jewish Studies. It is the first permanent Centre in Canada’s capital focusing on the legacy and lessons of the Holocaust, through special programs, research and education of teachers and descendants, aimed at community and religious leaders, students and general public.
A recent survey by the Centre of over 90 descendants in Ottawa revealed three main goals: connecting socially to create a shared community; propagating Holocaust education; and learning about themselves and their shared history.
Click here for more information.