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The young must learn the lessons of Auschwitz

The Story


Among 500 students getting a lesson on the Holocaust are six former pupils of Jim Keegstra. For a decade the social studies teacher taught his Eckville, Alta., students that the Holocaust is a myth perpetuated by evil Jews. Three of the students who made the trip to Vancouver tell CBC Television how seeing a graphic documentary about death camps and hearing speeches by survivors affected their views.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: May 26, 1983
Guest(s): Mark Heyn, Litha Kirbyson, Marla Scott, Vera Slymovics
Host: Knowlton Nash
Reporter: Jerry Thompson
Duration: 2:55
Footage excerpt: The World at War, Vol. 20: Genocide, Thames Television.

Did You know?


• Jim Keegstra was a social studies teacher and ex-mayor of the central Alberta town of Eckville in 1982 when a mother complained that her child's school notes contained derogatory descriptions of Jews. Students testified at later trials that Keegstra taught them that the Holocaust was a hoax. They said the teacher described Jews as inherently evil, treacherous and responsible for wars and anarchy.

• Keegstra was indicted under Canada's hate crimes law in 1984, convicted a year later and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine. The conviction was appealed up to the Supreme Court of Canada, which affirmed it in 1996.

• Keegstra's sentence, which was not addressed by the Supreme Court, was overturned by the Alberta Court of Appeal. It replaced the fine with a one-year suspended sentence, a year of probation and 200 hours of community service work.

• Educational sessions like the one in this clip have been held in many parts of Canada. For years after the Second World War, many Holocaust survivors chose not to speak about their experiences. Now, however, in many parts of Canada, survivors regularly talk to school groups about their experiences in hopes that such a genocide will never be repeated. The League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada and other groups promote Holocaust education programs.

• A poll commissioned by the BBC in February 2004 suggested that 45 per cent of Britons claimed to have never heard of Auschwitz. The figure rose to 60 per cent for people under age 35. Among those who had heard of the camp, 70 per cent felt they didn't know much about it. The survey was based on a mailed questionnaire to 4,000 Britons.

• Genocide didn't end with the Holocaust. Academics point to mass killings in Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda as examples. The United Nations passed a convention against genocide in 1948. While various UN bodies have branded many conflicts as genocide, the most powerful body -- the Security Council, which could compel member nations to act -- has not voted to recognize any of them as such.

• Jim Keegstra is not Canada's only Holocaust denier. German-born Ernst Zundel, who for years ran a publishing business and website from his Toronto home, was never convicted of promoting racial hatred. However, he was detained after the federal government in 2003 issued a security certificate for his removal from Canada, saying his ties to the white supremacist movement made him a threat to national security.

• In December 2002, former native leader David Ahenakew was charged with inciting racial hatred. He had said to a Saskatoon reporter that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler did the right thing when he "fried" six million Jews because, otherwise, "Jews would have owned the God damned world." Three days later, he tearfully apologized on national television. He said there was no excuse for such comments which, he says, were intended to "spark debate" about the treatment of native peoples.


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