Carleton’s Zelikovitz Centre for Jewish Studies celebrated the inauguration of their new Centre for Holocaust Education and Scholarship (CHES) on Sunday, Nov. 8 with the screening of an Israeli documentary.

Among a crowd of dignitaries, a number of Holocaust survivors and family members gathered in the Azrieli Theatre with the founding committee of the CHES. Deidre Butler, associate director of the Zelikovitz Centre, said the event was a resounding success.

“There is a wonderful synergy when committed people come together and collaborate,” she said. “The audience reflected the strong support across communities, political lines, and generations that a university-based centre for Holocaust Education and Scholarship engenders here in Ottawa.”

Butler, an assistant professor at Carleton’s College of the Humanities, was approached with the idea of founding a Holocaust centre in June 2015. Mina Cohn, who will serve as director, represented the interests of local educators and survivors who thought time was running out for particular research efforts surrounding the Holocaust.

“Ottawa is the only major city in Canada that did not have a Holocaust Centre,” said Cohn. “Our mission is to develop programs and activities in order to promote a deeper understanding of the history and legacy of the Holocaust.

Mina Cohn, director of CHES and Deidre Butler, associate director of the Zelikovitz Centre | Photo: Greg Mason

Mina Cohn, director of CHES and Deidre Butler, associate director of the Zelikovitz Centre | Photo: Greg Mason

“This is especially important now when we are losing our Holocaust survivors who are our eyewitnesses and best teachers.”

Eleven survivors attended the inauguration – on the eve of the 77th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the co-ordinated attack on Jews across Germany and Austria in 1938. Being able to congregate during Holocaust Education Month was also a long-term goal, one that sped up the founding process.

“When there’s a date involved there gets to be a momentum behind it and things start happening very quickly,” said Maureen Molot, an adviser throughout the genesis of the CHES. A retired Carleton research professor who taught at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs for 27 years, she has served on the Zelikovitz Centre advisory board.

“The Holocaust was a pivotal event of the 20th century and can never be forgotten,” said Molot.

Recently, historians, filmmakers, and journalists are investigating how we understand the Holocaust using survivor testimonials. The Centre’s goals will build a sustainable foundation based on their mission to disseminate information.

Several ambassadors and country representatives attended the event and screening. They included German Ambassador Werner Wnendt; Hungarian Ambassador Bálint Ódor; Fabrizio Nava, the Italian Minister Counsellor; Deputy Head of Mission Shlomit Sufa from the Israeli Embassy; and Israeli Ambassador Rafael Barak.

Carleton President Roseann O’Reilly Runte offered congratulatory opening remarks to the team behind the CHES and introduced Ambassador Barak, who spoke on anti-Semitism.

The CHES will build on the Zelikovitz Centre and Carleton’s expertise in Holocaust studies by offering year-round educational programs to develop teaching materials for high schools and other institutions, support survivor and second-generation narrative, and build an online destination for Holocaust education in Ottawa.

View more photos from the event