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Those who don’t learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them. Susan Dale, Learning Co-ordinator, for Safe Schools, TVDSB, arranged for a series of auditoriums for staff and students in London to make sure that our students will remember - “ Never Again”.

Eva Olson an author and public speaker, a youngish 80 year old Jewish Holocaust survivor, left her home in Bracebridge Ontario and made her way to London to speak to ten venues in five days.

We had the pleasure to host/interview her for dinner at our home. After 50 years of silence at 71 years of age she looked in the mirror one morning and asked: Why?

She had survived while eleven million Jews, Jehovah Witnesses, Gypsies, unfortunates had perished at the hands of the Nazis in the death camps. Her task was to tell of her journey of unlocking the doors in her biography, “A Womens Struggle Against Intolerance.” She felt she had a duty to speak for those who did not survive and had no voice.

Over the past nine years she has travelled 27,000 kilometres, spoken to, over 300,000 students and teachers in the public/separate schools.

On Thursday I was invited by Sherry Jones, Head of Guidance, Lucas Secondary School to attend an auditorium featuring Eva speaking to 730 grade ten/eleven students and their teachers.

The pin point presentation started with the images of Hungarian Jews, May 19th , 1944 boarding railway box cars to be shipped to Auschwitz. Eva was 19 years of age and she and her four siblings and parents were forced into a stifling hot, cramped car equipped with two buckets for their bodily needs to service one hundred poor souls. At the end of four days in hell she arrived at the selection camp in Auschwitz Poland.

Dr Josef Mengele met them at the gate and directed the mothers and their little children to go left to the showers/gas chambers. Young, healthy, men &women were pointed to the right enabling them to endure for yet another day. She never saw her parents or cousins again. The black smoke, stench of death was all that remained of her family.

The Nazi regime she reminded her audience began with 300 racists that grew to 300,000 in 1939. It was too late to stop the Holocaust and the extermination camps that followed.
Eva survived believing that there had to be better day- to-morrow. She was saved by Canadian/British forces April 15, 1945. Red Cross workers offered her a new life in Sweden.

It was eerie to watch the faces of the Lucas students. They were attentive, focused with nary a whisper for over an hour.

Heather Gauthier a grade 11 student found the program very moving; we have to be vigilant and not allow ourselves to repeat the past mistakes she told me.

Kyle Campbell suggested that bullying hurts us all. We can all make a difference if we but try.

Bayli Guslits learned that it is important to never forget - that it is our duty to choose to care for your fellow man.

Eva reminded her young audience that there are no innocent bystanders. One is not born a racist. You have to be taught to be afraid of people’s colour, religion or race. We have an obligation to speak out in the defence of others when we see wrongdoings.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com