THE HISTORY OF GENOCIDE MUST BE TAUGHT
The Holocaust, the genocides in Armenia, Rwanda, Cambodia and Darfur, and the cultural genocide of our First Nations peoples – the past century has proven we have not yet learned the lessons about the consequences of hate and intolerance.
The mission of The Foundation for Genocide Education is to collaborate with governments to ensure that the history of genocide and the steps leading to it are taught in high schools across Canada and the United States. We sit on a committee with the Quebec Education Ministry, which is developing a guide on teaching genocide to be used by educators in various disciplines. The government is funding this guide, along with professional workshops for teachers, and the Foundation is producing an animated video to promote the use of the guide.
We also believe that human connections are essential in transmitting the lessons of the past. When teaching topics as complex as genocide, it can be easy to cover the facts and figures and forget the humans affected by history. To offer further support to teachers, the FGE has formed a high school presentation program centred on genocide survivors’ testimonies.
Why Genocide Education Matters
Teaching and learning about the history of genocide is a powerful tool to countering hate and discrimination in the world.
Through studying this history, students can understand how racist policies divide communities and create environments that make genocide possible. Genocide education is proven to promote critical thinking, societal awareness, and personal growth. It teaches about the warning signs that can lead to mass murder. Students learn about human behaviour and our capacity to succumb to scapegoating and propaganda. It further reveals the full range of human responses – the individual motivations and pressures that lead people to act as they do – or do not act at all.
The Benefits of Genocide Education
Empowers students to act on and prevent future atrocities
Promotes critical thinking about extremist ideologies
Teaches how to recognize state-sanctioned prejudice and human rights violations
Increases social connection and empathy towards other cultures
Develops more informed and engaged citizens
Promotes respect for diversity
The Foundation for Genocide Education was created as an outgrowth of a presentation that Montreal-based educator and film producer Heidi Berger gives to high schools, community groups and symposiums throughout Canada and the U.S.
This interactive video presentation focuses on genocide and its precursors, hate and racial intolerance, using the dramatic video testimonial of her mother, Ann Kazimirski, who survived the Holocaust by hiding in barns and attics.
Despite a positive response to this presentation, Heidi discovered that large numbers of students – and educators – had little to no knowledge of genocide. Some students were graduating, not even knowing what the word genocide means!
When a teacher urged her to ‘do something about this,’ Heidi decided to create a foundation to work with the government to include genocide education as a key part of the high school history curriculum. The foundation has grown into a registered charitable organization with a staff and a team of other school presenters working to realize Heidi’s vision in Quebec and across Canada and the U.S.
In 2009, Heidi used her skills in film production and education to create a compelling, 50-minute interactive video presentation chronicling her late mother’s experience during the Holocaust. The presentation touches on the dangers of intolerance and racism, which can escalate into genocide.
Heidi speaks to English and French high schools, university students, community organizations and symposiums throughout Quebec, Canada and the United States. The students’ emotional reaction to genocide—and their shocking lack of knowledge on the subject— motivated Heidi to start the Foundation for Genocide Education in 2014 to educate new generations to prevent future atrocities.
She has worked for many years as a volunteer in outreach with various community organizations. Marcy is the daughter-in-law of a Holocaust survivor, and is passionate about the need for genocide education to ensure that the next generations are equipped with the knowledge and the compassion to prevent these horrors from happening again.
As the granddaughter of a child Holocaust survivor, the foundation’s mission is very personal to her. She is deeply committed to making genocide education compulsory so that the next generations develop the empathy necessary to prevent these horrors from ever happening again.
"After Chairing a mission to Poland with 10 Holocaust survivors, where we literally stood on the ground where they were interned and their families perished, it became apparent to me that I must help educate and stand up to all forms of extreme oppression."
Dean is a new board member of The Foundation for Genocide Education. His mother is a Holocaust survivor and encouraged him from a young age to combat antisemitism and intolerance of any kind. He is deeply committed to educating all young people about the destructive consequences of hate, racism and xenophobia.
Irwin is the son of Holocaust survivors, and is committed to ensuring that the legacy of his parents and others who experienced the horrors of genocide is not forgotten.
Marvin is convinced that integrating education into the high school curriculum is our best chance to understanding hatred and the steps that lead genocide.
I really appreciated Heidi Berger's presentation. I realized that discrimination towards the Jews didn't only happen in Europe, but also in Quebec, where I live, and it really affected me.- AlexaGrade 10 Student
Young people need to know what can happen and be educated about the worst. Learning to stop it when we see the signs should be taught at an early age.- Safet VukalicSurvivor of Bosian genocide
People should know that we are living the first steps of genocide in our daily lives. We are there… let us stop it.- Jean-Claude RancourtHIgh School Teacher
Now is not the time to harden our hearts to the outside world and retreat in fear. Instead, we must push harder to teach peace and tolerance in the face of evil not only in Quebec but across Canada and the world.- Caitlin JohnstonGrade 11 teacher in B.C.
Montreal, QC, Canada H4P 1K4