Geno­cide ex­hibit opens eyes

Help­ing to un­der­stand early warn­ing signs and stages of atroc­i­ties

Cape Breton Post - - NORTHSIDE/CAPE BRETON - Gor­don Samp­son founded the North Syd­ney His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety on Jan. 7, 1980 and se­lected the li­brary as the centennial project out of 10 pos­si­ble projects in 1985. He was an ed­u­ca­tor and ad­min­is­tra­tor for 38 years, the last 28 at the Cana­dian Coast Guard C

I vis­ited the geno­cide ex­hibit at Vic­to­ria Park last month and it was an eye-opener.

The ex­hibit was bor­rowed from the Mon­treal Holo­caust Me­mo­rial Cen­tre and is a per­ma­nent dis­play at the Mon­treal Me­mo­rial Holo­caust Mu­seum. The co-spon­sors of this im­por­tant ex­hibit were the Cape Bre­ton Vic­to­ria Re­gional Cen­tre for Ed­u­ca­tion, Nova Sco­tia Hu­man Rights, Vic­to­ria Park and the Holo­caust Ed­u­ca­tion Week Com­mit­tee with Diane Lewis as chair.

I was met by one of the vol­un­teers, Dorothy Mal­com, who gave me a de­tailed in­tro­duc­tion be­fore I was to visit each dis­play, all with phones at­tached. Other vol­un­teers at the north end Syd­ney ex­hibit were John Mal­com and Maura Lea Mo­rykot.

I had heard of the Holo­caust as­so­ci­ated with the Sec­ond World War as well as the Rwan­dan geno­cide, but not the Ar­me­nian geno­cide or the Cam­bo­dian geno­cide.

I re­mem­ber Lt.-Gen. Roméo Dal­laire in the me­dia call­ing for mil­i­tary help, but it was all in vain; he wit­nessed hun­dreds of thou­sands of Rwan­dans be­ing slaugh­tered. No won­der he had men­tal health is­sues, and af­ter he re­cov­ered, wrote books and gave me­dia in­ter­views.

There was an in­ter­view with Dal­laire in sec­tion six of the ex­hibits.

The an­nual teach­ers’ con­fer­ence on Holo­caust Ed­u­ca­tion was held at the ex­hibit which in­cluded stu­dent teach­ers from Cape Bre­ton Univer­sity.

More than 700 mid­dle school and high school stu­dents at­tended this ex­hibit as well as an es­ti­mated 1,000 mem­bers of the pub­lic.

The Holo­caust com­mit­tee is com­mit­ted to work­ing for peace by re­mind­ing the pub­lic of what can hap­pen when hu­man rights are ig­nored.

Ev­ery spring, Yom HaShoah, a Holo­caust me­mo­rial ser­vice, is car­ried out at the Tem­ple Sons of Is­rael Sy­n­a­gogue in Syd­ney. Al­lan Rosen­feld spoke on April 15.

Geno­cide is de­fined as the mass ex­ter­mi­na­tion of hu­mans, es­pe­cially of a par­tic­u­lar race or na­tion. “Cide” means kill and “geno” means race. The very thought of the def­i­ni­tion is atro­cious.

How could such events hap­pen?

Well, af­ter see­ing this ex­hibit, I un­der­stand now that it is al­ways a slow process. It is not a sud­den event, but rather, the re­sult of a de­lib­er­ate process that can be in­ter­rupted.

It is im­por­tant to un­der­stand the early warn­ing signs and stages, as well as why and how they oc­cur. This al­lows us to bet­ter pin­point the process so we can pre­vent them from re­cur­ring.

Geno­cide is nearly al­ways pre­ceded by early warn­ing signs. While some me­dia out­lets de­nounce the rise in racial ha­tred, oth­ers are quickly taken over and are used to spread fear and hate as hap­pened in Ger­many. Some me­dia out­lets in­cite ha­tred and vi­o­lence against mi­nor­ity groups such as the Tut­sis in Rwanda.

Com­mem­o­rat­ing past events and bear­ing wit­ness to them helps to keep the mem­ory of these events alive. Sur­vivors speak up to pre­vent his­tory from re­peat­ing it­self. It is im­por­tant to lis­ten to these sto­ries of hor­ror and per­se­cu­tion. Sur­vivors talk about their cul­ture and their loved ones that were de­stroyed, or that those com­mit­ting the geno­cide tried to de­stroy.

For sur­vivors, they want us to rec­og­nize the first step which is ac­knowl­edg­ing that geno­cide oc­curred. Turkey still de­nies the geno­cide of 1.5 mil­lion Ar­me­ni­ans. The gov­ern­ment of Cam­bo­dia strongly en­cour­aged its cit­i­zens to bury their past; how­ever this be­gan to change in 2009 when the his­tory of the geno­cide was in­cluded in school text­books.

Look at the star­va­tion in Ye­men, Syria and Myan­mar, where the Ro­hingyas are tramp­ing to Bangladesh and be­ing re­jected there; those from Hon­duras are hop­ing to tramp to Amer­ica but are stuck in Mex­ico.


Part of the in­ter­ac­tive ex­hibit on geno­cide at Vic­to­ria Park in north end Syd­ney.

Gor­don Samp­son From the North­side

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