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Remembering the Holocaust as antisemitism rises across Montreal

On Jan. 27, 1945, the Auschwitz concentration camp, the largest and most infamous death camp in the world, was liberated by Soviet soldiers.

Today the occasion is used as a memorial to remember the more than 6 million Jews who were killed during the Holocaust.

“It’s important to remember clearly and to take a minute to think of all the people who were murdered so brutally by the Nazi regime, but it’s also important to remember those who were resilient, who survived,” said Eta Yudin, Quebec vice-president for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). “It’s about understanding what happened, understanding the context that made something like the Holocaust possible.”

Some observers say antisemitism is on the rise in Montreal.

“More than ever, it’s important to learn about what happens when antisemitism goes unchecked,” said Kat Romanow, the programming and human rights coordinator at the Montreal Holocaust Museum.

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According to Statistics Canada, the Jewish community is the most targeted group in the country for hate crimes. Some say the deadly Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, only made it worse.

“The fact that a war that’s politically motivated perhaps, is seen as an excuse for antisemitism – for physically attacking a school building, for slurs that are being yelled at Jewish people across the world – it’s insane really,” said Rabbi Menachem Karmel, a principal at Yeshiva Gedola Elementary School in Montreal.

His school was struck by gunfire twice in the same week last November.

The Rabbi isn’t the only one who feels the conflict in the Middle East is an excuse for the recent uptick in anti-Jewish sentiment.

“We’re at some kind of a threshold where we need to push back aggressively against antisemitism, against those who seek to foment hate, those who seek to leverage a foreign conflict to target the Jewish community with antisemitism,” said Yudin.

On a day to remember what antisemitism can cause, CIJA hopes for more legislation against online propaganda and hate.

“We need to educate our next generation of leaders on how to filter, how to understand what’s online, how to understand the past,” added Yudin. CIJA is also pushing for mandatory Holocaust education in Quebec schools.

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