By Scott Taylor
Just prior to the January 29 International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorations, a shocking study was released which revealed that nearly half of Canadian’s cannot name a single Nazi concentration camp.
Commissioned by the Azrieli foundation and conducted by Schoen consulting, the study was based on over 1,100 interviews of randomly selected individuals to reflect Canada’s diverse demographics.
According to the findings, millennials or those adults aged 18 aged 34 were the most un-informed regarding even the basic details of Hitler’s Holocaust.
In their January 24th story about this study, the New York Times noted that when Canada inaugurated its first National Holocaust Memorial in Ottawa in 2017, the plaque somehow omitted any mention of Jews or anti-Semitism. Following public outrage, that plaque has since been replaced with one more accurately reflecting the victims of the Holocaust.
It is this ignorance of the horrors of the Holocaust that is allowing for a rise in neo-Nazism across Canada. It is estimated that there are currently as many as 300 such hate based groups operating in our country.
In mid-January, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale issued an appeal to high-tech firms to aid authorities in halting the online activities of these right wing, anti-Semitic factions.
Ignorance of the Holocaust is also allowing for many deniers to re-write history, a trend which is taking place in many European countries, often with official sanction.
One refreshing counter to this deliberate historical revision came out last week in the form of an official announcement by the Government of Finland. After an appeal to Finland’s President by an Israeli historian, a study was conducted to examine the role of Finnish volunteers in the Nazi Waffen SS during WWII.
The recently published results conclude that the 1,408 Finns who volunteered and fought as part of the 5th Panzer Division Wiking were indeed implicated in the slaughter of Jews, thus making them perpetrators of the Holocaust. This was a brave move by the Finnish Government, as these wartime SS volunteers had previously only been considered frontline soldiers, albeit allied with Adolf Hitler.
In stark contrast to the Finnish position, is that of the Ukrainian government’s celebration of Stepan Bandera. During WWII, Bandera was a Nazi collaborator who’s Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) participated in the mass execution of thousands of Jews in 1941. Bandera later fought against both the Germans and the Soviets in his quest for an independent Ukraine. He is now being revered for his efforts to create a nation, with streets named after him, his birthday declared a national holiday, and in his hometown of Lvov, 2019 has been declared the ‘Year of Stepan Bandera.’
In a recent scuffle between Ukrainian police and right-wing demonstrators in Kiev, one officer was caught on video shouting “On the ground, Banderite!” as he apprehended a rioter. Banderite is the name used to describe Bandera’s followers. The policeman’s use of the term as a derogatory slur caused an angry backlash across western Ukraine. In response the police chief announced that the officer in question would be disciplined, and then proclaimed himself to be a Banderite. This prompted the Minister of the Interior to follow suit and also proclaim his public support for Bandera.
Whatever Bandera did for Ukrainian nationhood cannot be allowed to erase the fact that he was a rabid anti-Semite who slaughtered Jews. Canada currently has approximately 200 military trainers based in Ukraine and according to the stated rationale for our military assistance is to help Ukraine defend our common values from Russian aggression.
Surely that does not allow us to turn a blind eye to such very public celebrations of a man who slaughtered Jews?
Similarly, we have over 500 combat soldiers based in Latvia and next month, on March 16, there will be a parade to honour those Latvians who fought in Hitler’s SS Latvian Legion.
A group known as the Arajs Commando formed the core element of this SS Unit. The Arajs Commando is credited with exterminating the Jewish population of Latvia to such an extent that by 1942 SS leader Heinrich Himmler pronounced the country “Juden frei” (Jew free).
As that recent study clearly shows, far too many Canadians know far too little about the Holocaust. How else can one explain allowing our allies to stage parades and name streets after perpetrators of the worst crime ever committed against humanity?