Sheldon Alberts, Washington Correspondent
Published: Monday, May 11, 2009
WASHINGTON – After months spent studying the genocide of Jews during the Second World War, 14-year-old Eliza Kraus had grown familiar with all the painful details of the Holocaust. She learned about the brutality of the Nazis, the squalor of the Jewish ghettos, and Adolf Hitler’s « final solution. »
But when she finally visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on Monday, and stepped inside a cattle car used to transport European Jews to Nazi concentration camps, the Calgary teenager was left speechless with emotion.
The Asper Foundation Human Rights and Holocaust Studies Program has brought more than 7,000 students from 110 Canadian cities to the U.S. capital in recent years, and it’s a visit that can leave its participants both drained and motivated to speak out against modern-day human-rights abuses.
This year alone, more than 1,100 students have taken part in the program and, on several of the stops at the Holocaust museum, Louise Lawrence-Israels has been there to tell them her harrowing tale of survival.
« What’s happening in places like Darfur, with civilians being murdered and raped – it’s a lot like what happened during the Holocaust. »
The Holocaust Studies program was launched in 1997 by the late Israel Asper as a way to use history to teach Canadian students about tolerance. Asper founded Canwest Global Communications Inc., whose media holdings include Global Television and Canwest newspapers across Canada.
The program formed the starting point for the $100-million Canadian Museum of Human Rights, which began construction last month in Winnipeg and is slated for opening in 2012.