By the age of seven, Nadia Rosa was stripped of her childhood and forced into survival mode by a brutal Nazi regime.
Captured while in hiding in 1945, Nadia and her mother were sent to the Auschwitz death camp. They were later re-routed to Theresienstadt Concentration Camp and liberated later that year. Nadia survived, but lost many family members in the Holocaust, including her cousins and grandparents.
Today she takes solace in the fact that she continues to honour the memory of her fallen family members.
Others were not so lucky. Of the estimated six million Jewish people who perished in the Holocaust, many were families who completely vanished. After visiting Auschwitz two years ago, Rosa had a stunning epiphany which she shared with students and guests during last week’s appearance at Bishop Tonnos Secondary School.
“This is what hit me the most,” said Rosa, “that there are millions of people who disappeared without a trace. There is nobody to remember them. They were stripped of something that is above all that we can imagine….They were stripped of the right to die with dignity and they were stripped of the right to have people remember them.”
Rosa visited Bishop Tonnos last week for a special event hosted by the school’s new Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity course. Focusing on human rights, the Grade 12 course includes events that led to the Holocaust, as well as heroes of the Holocaust, such as Oskar Schindler, who single-handedly saved the lives of about 1,200 Jewish people. The course also includes contemporary human rights activists such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
BT student Julia Mamone said the course makes a positive impact which can help end hatred and prejudice in today’s world.
“They teach us so we can learn about it and teach it to others so it doesn’t happen again,” said Mamone.
Student Shima Shafieian said the course is inspirational.
“When we leave the class we feel like we have to do something to make a difference in the community,” said Shafieian.
Last week’s community outreach event included a travelling exhibit of information panels from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies.
The week’s events also included a screening of Hana’s Suitcase, viewed by more than 4,000 Hamilton students. Hana’s Suitcase is the story of a young girl and her brother who are sent to a Nazi concentration camp.
Dr. Harry Levin, president of the Hamilton Jewish Federation, said the week of Holocaust awareness activities will help students grasp the harsh realities of racism.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to build understanding and to ensure our heritage by having our children understand the complexities of racism,” said Levin.
Grace Centritto, who teaches the Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity course, said Oskar Schindler is a prime example that one person can make a difference. Today there are more than 6,000 descendants of the 1,200 people who Schindler saved.
“To stop genocide, we must learn about it,” said Centritto. “Our students are engaged and committed to this human crisis.”