On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Survivor Fears World Has Not Learned From Atrocities | CBC News

World ‘has not learned from the Holocaust,’ survivor saysElly Gotz, speaking from Toronto on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, recounts surviving in a ghetto in occupied Lithuania and being sent to the Dachau concentration camp. He also discusses the lessons he tries to impart during speaking engagements at schools, such as letting go of hate, and his response to rising antisemitism.

Holocaust survivor Elly Gotz has seen hate up close. He knows how deadly it can be.

As a teenager, he spent three years hiding from Nazis in the basement of a home in Kaunas, Lithuania, until further misfortune saw him land in a concentration camp. While he survived to see liberation, Gotz weighed just 70 pounds after his ordeal. Then came a long stint in hospital, at which point he felt some hate himself.

“I wanted to kill Germans. I was looking for a gun,” Gotz, now 95, told CBC News Network Saturday on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“But I gave it up, because I realized it’s ridiculous.”

Decades on, Gotz wants “the world to give up hatred.” His hope, however, is being sorely tested at a time when antisemitism is on the rise amid conflict in the Middle East.

Hedy Bohm, a fellow Holocaust survivor, said that despite all the warnings that she and other survivors have shared over the years about the dangers of hate, the scourge of antisemitism is getting worse.

“It seems to be even more widespread,” she told CBC News on Saturday.

WATCH | Antisemitism still ‘terribly alive and strong,’ Holocaust survivor says: 

Holocaust survivor saddened that antisemitism still ‘terribly alive and strong’Hedy Bohm, speaking from Toronto on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, says it’s wrong ‘to teach people to hate’ amid a global rise in antisemitism. Bohm, who says her family and community in Romania were taken completely by surprise when the Nazis entered her town, says ‘kindness towards one another’ is what she hopes to impart by sharing her story of survival.

World leaders had similar messages, as they urged people to do their part to learn about the horrors of the Holocaust and to turn away from hateful ideologies.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement that paid tribute to the millions of Jews slain during the Holocaust and called on Canadians to remember its victims and survivors.

“We reaffirm our pledge to never forget,” said Trudeau, whose Friday statement also recognized the many Roma, Sinti, and other groups of people also targeted by the Nazis.

A partial view of people who gathered at Ottawa’s National Holocaust Museum on Friday for a service marking the 79th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)He also underlined the “sharp, disturbing rise in antisemitism” seen in Canada and elsewhere in recent months.

On Saturday, a vandalism incident at a Fredericton synagogue prompted the New Brunswick public safety minister to say there is “no place” for antisemitism in the province. The incident is under investigation by police.

‘An alarming rise’ in antisemitismOverseas, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said “we have a duty to remember the horrific crimes of the Holocaust.” He pointed his social media followers to the learn the story of Lily Ebert, a 100-year-old survivor.

U.S. President Joe Biden, meanwhile, said the need to remember the evils of the past was “more pressing than ever” following the Hamas-led attacks on southern Israel last Oct. 7, which ignited the ongoing war in Gaza.

“We have [since] witnessed an alarming rise of despicable antisemitism at home and abroad that has surfaced painful scars from millennia of hate and genocide of Jewish people,” Biden said in a statement issued Friday. “It is unacceptable.”

A man is seen at Budapest’s Holocaust Memorial Centre on Friday, looking at a wall bearing the names of Holocaust victims. (Bernadett Szabo/Reuters)Those same attacks in Israel last October have left the Jewish community in Australia “bearing a pain you should never have had to bear again,” said Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in a video message.

Albanese said the remembrance of the Holocaust “must be a conscious act.” He called on Australians to “always denounce and reject antisemitism.”

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Jews and Muslims from the country and from abroad gathered in Srebrenica to jointly observe the day, and to promote compassion and dialogue amid the Israel-Hamas war.

Past and presentFor Gad Partok, a 93-year-old resident of Ashkelon, Israel, the events of the distant past, in some ways, did not feel so very far removed from the ongoing aftermath of the Oct. 7 attacks.

Gad Partok, 93, a Tunisian-born Holocaust survivor, poses for a portrait in his home in Ashkelon, Israel, on Friday. (Maya Alleruzzo/The Associated Press)As a 10-year-old, Partok saw Nazis storm a street where he lived in the coastal Tunisian town of Nabeul. He saw them going door to door, hauling out his neighbours, shooting them and burning down their homes.

Like so many Jews who moved to Israel after the war, Partok believed Israel would be a place where he would be free from persecution.

But when militants crossed into southern Israel last October, the scenes of the violence that took place brought Partok’s thoughts back to things he’d seen long ago.

“I thought — what, is this the same period of those Nazis? It can’t be,” said Partok, who was clenching his fists while speaking to The Associated Press.

The plight of Tunisia’s small Jewish community is a lesser-known chapter of the Holocaust.

Over six months of occupation, the Nazis sent nearly 5,000 Tunisian Jews to labour camps, where dozens died from labour, disease and Allied bombing campaigns, according to Israel’s Yad Vashem museum. Allied forces liberated Tunisia in 1943, but it was too late to save many of Partok’s neighbours.

Partok said his family was only able to escape because his father, a fabric dealer who spoke Arabic, disguised the family’s Jewish identity. The family left Tunisia and moved to what would become Israel in 1947, a year before the country gained independence.

Every generation ‘must learn the truth’In Germany, where people put down flowers and lit candles at memorials for the victims of the Nazi terror, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that his country would continue to carry the responsibility for this “crime against humanity.”

A white rose is seen lying Friday at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. Saturday marked the annual International Holocaust Remembrance Day. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)He called on all citizens to defend Germany’s democracy and fight antisemitism, as the country marked the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

“‘Never again’ is every day,” Scholz said in his weekly video podcast. “Jan. 27 calls out to us: Stay visible! Stay audible! Against antisemitism, against racism, against misanthropy — and for our democracy.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whose country is fighting to repel Russia’s full-scale invasion, posted an image of a Jewish menorah on X, formerly Twitter, to mark the day of remembrance.

“Every new generation must learn the truth about the Holocaust. Human life must remain the highest value for all nations in the world,” said Zelenskyy, who is Jewish and who lost ancestors in the Holocaust.

“Eternal memory to all Holocaust victims!” Zelenskyy tweeted.

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