Genocide exhibit opens eyes
Helping to understand early warning signs and stages of atrocities
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