Stories

Izak Paul celebrates 25th anniversary of AB's largest Holocaust Education Symposium

Twenty-five years and more than 40,000 students later, the annual Holocaust Education Symposium is still going strong.

Its message and its purpose, as meaningful as ever: "Our goals are to educate students about the facts of the Holocaust and the lessons to be learned from the Holocaust," says Izak Paul, an MR biology instructor who has been organizing the event since Day 1.

"Those lessons are basically that each of us has a personal responsibility to speak out whenever we encounter any forms of discrimination or prejudice or racism directed at any minority group."

MR houses a special resource for those who want to learn more
about the Holocaust

For those interested in even more detail on the Holocaust, MR has a section
called The Sid and Bronia Cyngiser Holocaust Education Collection,
which is a tremendous resource.

It contains Holocaust materials, which are available to the public through the
Mount Royal Library to help increase awareness and education about the Holocaust.

The collection includes recently published material in addition to classic literature
on the Holocaust. These include personal biographies, films and academic sources
to increase awareness and education. "There is new material coming out, and it is
important to have the popular and the academic sources," says Pearl Herscovitch,
Librarian at Mount Royal's library.

This collection is made possible through donations. Anyone interested in making a
donation can contact the Mount Royal College Foundation.
This year it will run from May 12 to 14 in the Leacock Theatre (S216), the Wright Theatre (S232), the Jenkins Theatre (I115), Y222 and Y224.

Paul says he has heard many people call the Symposium life changing.

There are many aspects of the Symposium that carry weight with the students, but the most powerful moment is when a Holocaust survivor gives a personal account of their experience and takes questions from the crowd.

As each year passes, first-hand accounts from survivors become more and more rare.

Those precious souls who survived so much are getting to the age where travel is difficult and health is a concern.
It's that very fact that makes the 25th anniversary even more special.

"We are looking ahead to the inevitable situation where there are no Holocaust survivors who are going to be able to speak and we are going to have to revise the program," says Paul.

"We're not sure how we're going to revise it and it will never be quite the same as it is currently with the survivors personally speaking about their experiences."

Izak says organizers are considering creating video where children of survivors speak and present previous survivor testimonies, as a way to keep the personalized angle alive.

The Holocaust Education Symposium welcomes Grade 12 students from both the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) and the Calgary Catholic School District.

Many of the survivors who speak were teenagers during the Holocaust. This is a revelation that creates an even greater impact for the students in the audience because they can relate to the age of the speaker.

In addition to hearing about the survivors' experiences, students are provided with a historical overview of the Holocaust by Mount Royal and University of Calgary historians. This is followed by a BBC documentary. These two pieces provide context to the elements that lead to the Holocaust.

If any members of the College community would like to attend or get more information on the event, please contact Izak Paul at 6173. Space is limited.

- Candace DeFreitas, May 7, 2009