Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Remembering The Unforgettable

"There is so much we can learn from what happened here. And you can take those lessons and apply it to the present."
"I was doing something as a Canadian, this is something that affects us all. It wasn't because of anything of my own faith, but this is something that I felt was important to us all as Canadians."
"It's so important that we pass on this history to future generations."
"A woman leaving the tennis court looked at me and my wife and said, 'Are they members? Why can't they play in the day? -- they don't have jobs."
Tim Uppal, Minister of State for Multiculturalism, Ottawa, Canada
Minister of State for Multiculturalism Tim Uppal was in Poland on Tuesday to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. He headed the Canadian delegation, and earlier succeeded in getting a project approved to build a national Holocaust memorial in Ottawa.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld    Minister of State for Multiculturalism Tim Uppal was in Poland on Tuesday to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. He headed the Canadian delegation.
Among the thousands of people wearing fur hats and yarmulkes in Poland last Tuesday, in commemoration the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, one visitor surely stood out from the crowd. As head of the official Canadian delegation for the ceremony of remembrance, a man wearing a blue turban signifying his Sikh heritage, the Member of Parliament from Edmonton has scant few Jews in his constituency back home. And here he was, in Krakow, Poland, before embarking on that sombre, sober visit to Auschwitz.

He is quite aware of the history of the death camps and Auschwitz in particular, where the Third Reich carefully planned and carried out the mass extermination of an estimated 1.1-million men, women and children during World War Two. For this man, the dread occurrence of the Holocaust is a bleak reminder of how racial stereotyping and bigotry lead to hatred, and eventually violence carried out by the majority against a vulnerable minority.

It is a given that the memory of the Holocaust will not soon fade from Jewish memory. It is an imperative that the memory of that dread occurrence not pass from the historical memory of non-Jews, for the entire world community must have an recognition and understanding that what occurred to world Judaism was a blot on the conscience of the globe. That a totalitarian government could carry out such an unbelievable campaign of mass extermination and succeed to the extent that six million people of a single ethnic origin were obliterated from the face of the Earth is impossible to even imagine.

Mr. Uppal's wife, Kiran Bhinder, once undertook a commitment as a non-Jew to become one of many people to embark upon a trip named March of the Living, where teenagers are taken through Holocaust sites throughout Europe, and then on to Israel, in an effort to ensure that the memory of the genocide not be forgotten. Eventually Kiran Bhinder shared her impressions of that experience with her husband. She spoke of an evolving relationship with survivors of the death camps, and he became engaged as she had, in the call to remember.

Holocaust survivors arrive for a ceremony to mark the 69th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz Nazi death camp's in Oswiecim, Poland, on Monday, Jan. 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

In 2010, he was given the opportunity to bring forward a private member's bill in the House of Commons. Of the many and varied suggestions, one took his attention immediately; the fact that Canada had never erected a national Holocaust monument. Previous attempts to have similar legislation passed had taken place, but stalled in the effort. Mr. Uppal's bill succeeded, however. And this, possibly resulted from the fact that the current Government of Canada, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is singularly sympathetic to the memory of the Holocaust.

Mr. Uppal has himself embarked on a lecture circuit as a Parliamentarian, member of the Cabinet, and man of conscience, addressing crowds from the Jewish community, including the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee, as well as addressing groups of teenagers preparing to depart on March of the Living trips, just like the one his own wife had been part of, when she was a teen. It is his aspiration to one day expose his own very young children, aged six, four and two to the history of people so viciously and singularly victimized by Nazi racist policies.

Members of the Israeli parliament (Knesset) pass main gate of the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland, on Holocaust Day, January 27, 2014. (JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

In Canada, a vaunted multicultural society, where equality of all its citizens is protected under the law, there remain incidents of racial disequilibrium, incidents that appear insignificant on the surface, but at the very least represent slights from a segment of the population toward another segment. Even on a tennis court Mr. Uppal and his wife were, as obviously visually 'different' in their skin tone and garb, treated in an insulting manner.

Minor slights hide behind the viral nastiness of major prejudices.

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