Robbie Waisman (left), Holocaust survivor and Éloge C. Butera (right) Rwandan genocide survivor.
VANCOUVER, BC – Close to 1,000 senior secondary students will participate in the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre’s 37th Annual Symposium on the Holocaust. As one of the leading Holocaust education centres in Canada, the VHEC is proud to present a program that brings students together with a Holocaust survivor, a Rwandan genocide survivor and an eminent historian.
Born in Poland, Robbie Waisman was 13 years old when he was imprisoned in Buchenwald and was one of the very few children to have survived a Nazi concentration camp. Éloge C. Butera was a young boy when he survived the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda, and is now dedicated to the promotion of human rights and the pursuit of justice in the aftermath of genocide. Both of these powerful speakers make a lasting impression on students who are similar in age to Robbie and Éloge when world events changed their lives.
Over the years that Mr. Waisman and Mr. Butera have spoken together, they have forged an abiding friendship. Their shared bond, born of mutual respect and understanding, has made them allies in their pursuit of social justice and their desire to educate young people about the dangers of racism left unchecked.
Robbie Waisman commented about his participation in the Symposium: “As a Holocaust survivor it is important to share my experience and the story of 1.5 million children who died during the Holocaust. Éloge and I have spoken together at several engagements and he is a phenomenal young man. Together we are inoculating young people against hatred and discrimination and teaching them to uphold human rights and value diversity. I have faith in young people and I see it in their eyes after we speak that they will share my story and continue as a witness of the Holocaust in the future.”
Éloge Butera reflected about his experience about participating in the Holocaust Symposium with Mr. Waisman: “I have known Robbie for the several years and he has directly inspired me in my studies and now at the beginning of my legal career in human rights. He has encouraged and instilled in me the importance of sharing my story with young people so they understand the true cost of prejudice, discrimination and hatred. By speaking together we not only pay tribute to our loved ones, we encourage students to step up and speak out when they see violence and prejudice. I am honoured to do this work and take these small steps to help prevent future genocides.”
Students will also hear from Professor Chris Friedrichs from the University of British Columbia's Department of History. Providing this unparalleled access to historians, eyewitnesses of the Holocaust and survivors of other genocides is central to the mission of the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. Students participating at the Symposium will be reminded of the failings of the 20th century, and challenged to consider how, as Canadian citizens in the 21st century, they might respond to genocides and humanitarian crises today.
The Annual Symposium on the Holocaust was launched in 1975. Dr. Robert Krell, one of the Symposium's co-founders and the founding president of the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, who recognized early the need to educate young people about the events of the Holocaust. The longevity of this event and its lasting legacy is reflected in the demand from teachers across Metro Vancouver, many of whom attended the Symposium as students themselves.
The Symposium will be held at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver on Wednesday, May 9 and Thursday, May 10. As it is every year, the event is fully subscribed and is not open to the public. However, members of media are welcome.
Robbie Waisman was born in Skarszysko, Poland and liberated from Buchenwald concentration camp at the age of 14. Today he is a retired businessman, past president of the Vancouver Holocaust Centre Society and a survivor speaker who educates thousands of BC students annually. Mr. Waisman was recently named as an ‘Honorary Witness’ by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
Éloge C. Butera is a survivor of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda and a human rights activist. In 2011, Mr. Butera obtained degrees in both Civil Law and Common Law from McGill University. Mr. Butera was awarded the 2009 “Young Volunteer of the Year Award” by the Quebec Government, in recognition of his work as a community organizer and educator. He was also a Jeanne Sauvé Scholar in Montreal (2010). Mr. Butera returned to Rwanda to work as a summer law clerk to Justice Sam Rugege, Vice President of Rwanda’s Supreme Court. Mr. Butera has spoken to audiences across Canada about his experiences during the Rwandan genocide and the role an informed citizenry can play in preventing future mass atrocities and genocides.
About the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre
The VHEC is the only non-profit museum and education space in Vancouver dedicated to promoting human rights, social justice and genocide awareness, and to teaching about the causes and consequences of discrimination, racism and antisemitism through education and remembrance of the Holocaust.
As a teaching museum and a leader in Holocaust education in British Columbia, the VHEC reaches over 15,000 students annually. It produces acclaimed exhibits, innovative school programs, teaching materials and online exhibits, many of them with a focus on Canada and the Holocaust. The VHEC presents numerous public cultural and commemorative events and maintains a museum collection, archives and library. Now marking its 18th year, the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre was founded by survivors of the Holocaust, whose dream it was to leave a legacy in the form of an anti-racism teaching museum to the citizens of British Columbia.
Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre
50 -950 West 41st Avenue, Vancouver, BC, V5Z 2N7
The VHEC welcomes public visitors and school groups.
Hours: Monday – Thursday 9 AM – 5 PM; Friday 9 AM – 4 PM
Admission by donation
For more information please contact:
Sue Lavitt - Communications and Press Consultant
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