Lance Hiltz
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From: Friday, May 8, 2015 11:37 AM -0600
Subject:Embrace the Past, Shape the Future: Holocaust Symposium at WDS
May 5, 2015 was a truly special day at William Derby School. Horizon School Division, the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and the Azrieli Foundation held the Embrace the Past, Shape the Future Holocaust Symposium in Strasbourg, SK, bringing together approximately 300 students and staff for the first educational symposium of its kind. Attendees were given the incredible opportunity to meet and learn from Rachel and Adam Shtibel. Mr. and Mrs. Shtibel travelled from their home in Toronto to share their remarkable, heartbreaking and inspiring stories of survival during the Holocaust. As a gift to everyone who was able to attend, the Azrieli Foundation provided copies of the Shtibel’s memoirs, The Violin/A Child’s Testimony, which Mr. and Mrs. Schtibel autographed following their testimony and a Q&A session.


The idea for the symposium came from William Derby School social studies teacher, Larry Mikulcik.  Mikulcik was one of 25 teachers from around the world, and the only Canadian, selected by the USC Shoah Foundation to travel to Poland in 2015 in order to participate in the “Auschwitz: The Past is Present” professional development program.  Mikulcik, who also serves on the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission’s citizenship education teacher development working group, connected the Commission to the symposium.  


The day’s first session was presented by Mr. David Katzman, titled Understanding Judaism and Anti-Semitism. Mr. Katzman was a teacher and school principal for 31 years and now divides his time between working for the SHRC and distributing an online anti-racism program for high school students (www.VoicesIntoAction.ca). Mr. Katzman’s presentation stressed the importance of acknowledging our collective history, even when it is painful, to help people move forward and avoid repeating the same mistakes. Mr. Mikulcik presented the second session, titled The Nazi Years and the History of the Holocaust. As his students will already know, Mr. Mikulcik is a wealth of information regarding the Holocaust, and his presentation was a clear and enlightening representation of that dark time in humanity’s history. The third presentation, Renewal: Life, Justice, and a New Israel, was presented by Dr. Simmone Horwitz. Dr Horwitz is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Saskatchewan. Her talk focused on life after the war, stressing the enormity of the loss and tragic toll of the Holocaust. Judge David Arnot spoke in the afternoon about genocide, Holocaust denial and Human Rights. Judge Arnot is Chief Commissioner for the SHRC.


Mr. Mikulcik, WDS Principal Deb Shwandt-Kelln and the entire staff of WDS did a remarkable job of organizing and hosting the event. The symposium was a powerful, moving learning opportunity for everyone in attendance, and one that will be remembered for many years to come.