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Alex Johnstone, NDP candidate, travels to Auschwitz

Alex Johnstone, the NDP candidate who made headlines after admitting her ignorance about Auschwitz, has just returned from a "humbling" visit to the former Nazi death camp in Poland.

'This has been an extremely educational and humbling experience for me'

Alex Johnstone, NDP candidate for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas, traveled to Auschwitz this week. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Alex Johnstone, the NDP candidate who made headlines after admitting her ignorance about Auschwitz, has just returned from a "humbling" visit to the former Nazi death camp in Poland.

Johnstone, who is running in Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas, says she visited from Sunday to Thursday following an invitation from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies.

"This has been an extremely educational and humbling experience for me," she wrote in a Facebook post on Friday.

Johnstone made headlines earlier in the campaign when a satirical website unearthed a 2008 Facebook post in which she remarked that an electrified fence at Auschwitz was penis shaped.

"Ahhh, the infamous [Polish], phallic, hydro posts," Johnstone commented underneath the photo. "Of course you took pictures of this! It expresses how the curve is normal, natural, and healthy right!"

Johnstone apologized for the Facebook post. But the late September story gained steam when she confessed ignorance about the Nazi death camp.

"Well, I didn't know what Auschwitz was, or I didn't up until today," she told the Hamilton Spectator.

Johnstone connected with numerous Jewish organizations after that, including B'nai Brith.

"We've been having quiet, ongoing discussions with members of the community," said Paul Mason, Johnstone's campaign co-chair.

Johnstone, 32, is also a Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board trustee and appears on the local current affairs show The Opinionators. She also holds a master's degree in social work from McMaster University.

The NDP candidate said in her Facebook post that "it was important for me" to accept the mid-campaign invitation.

The new riding of Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas is a hotly contested one in this election. Johnstone is running against Vincent Samuel of the Conservative Party, Filomena Tassi of the Liberal Party and Green candidate Peter Ormond.

Most of Johnstone's competitors kept mum during the controversy, saying they were focusing on their own campaigns. 


Johnstone's Facebook statement:

Over the last few weeks I have been meeting with, and listening to, numerous members of the community in response to inappropriate comments I made on social media. This has been an extremely educational and humbling experience for me.

During that time The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center For Holocaust Studies extended an invitation to me to join them on their annual Compassion To Action mission to Auschwitz and other sites in Austria and Poland. I felt it was important for me to accept their invitation – and so I joined the trip from October 11-14.

I am committed to raising awareness about the need to combat racism, discrimination and anti-Semitism in all its forms. I hope that this step will help me in that goal.

Sincerely,
Alex Johnstone

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