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Feb. 18, 2019 | Monday
Local News
Holocaust survivor speaks in NOTL
Holocaust survivor Jack Veffer is a frequent speaker at schools and universities. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

Last Sunday, Jan. 27, marked the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and to honour of  occasion, Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Bahá’í Community invited writer Jack Veffer to talk about the Holocaust as he experienced it as a child.

The event took place Tuesday night at the NOTL Community Centre. The room was packed with people who came to listen to Veffer’s talk.

“We learned that Holocaust Remembrance Day occurs in January, and we thought it would be appropriate to participate by devoting our January event to this remembrance,” said Larry Clarke, the secretary of NOTL Bahá’í Community.

Veffer was born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands in 1940. He was three years old when his parents left to Switzerland seeking safety, hoping to come back for their children, only to be later on killed in Auschwitz.

Jack and his brother Maurice were then left in the care of their neighbours. Veffer said he is still waiting for his parents to come back.

“It’s an ongoing expectation all my life.”

Veffer came to Canada in 1958. He lives in St. Catharines and is a member of St. Catharines Bahá’í Community. Talking about past events doesn’t become easier for him, he said, but because he’s one of the last child survivors, he has to keep going.

Veffer wrote Through the Eyes of the Child: Survival of the Holocaust in 2007 and said writing the book was “cathartic” and “put things into perspective” for him.

As a person who had experienced prejudice and hatred first-hand, Veffer said people have to “learn from one another and love one another.”

“I’m Bahá’í, we’re apolitical, we’re not involved in politics. But if I had an opportunity to voice my opinion on what’s happening in the United States, I have a firm conviction that there’s another Hitler there,” Veffer told the crowd Monday night.

“We have different problems in Canada. The one blotch we have is that one that we treat Native Canadians terribly. We’ve taken away their land, we’ve taken away and put them on reservations. And I think we need to fix that. And then the same thing happened when French came here.”

One of the solutions, according to Veffer, would be teaching more history about Indigenous people and French Canadians.

“We need to make it a part of the curriculum in the education system. When you go through high school here, nothing is taught about French-speaking or Quebec. Everything we learn is about English. And the same thing is in Quebec. They need to learn about the English and English-speaking Canadians, and become familiar with one another. And then we can change the attitude towards each other by loving them,” he said.

Charlotte Letkemann, a member of NOTL’s Bahá’í Community, said people are going through “turbulent times” nowadays.

“We hope that these events, like remembering the Holocaust, will not only educate people but we will do all in our power to never let this happen again,” she said.

Veffer shared the same sentiment.

“We’re more concerned with our selfish interests. This is a very difficult life that we live. We struggle with each other. But I think we’re becoming better.”

At the end of the evening, Veffer said he was pleased with how the event went.

“I was rather surprised that so many people came out here, even because of the weather. The weather is not that good. And people are very receptive here.”

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