Re-launch of IWitness Canada Brings Testimony to New Generation of Teachers, Students

Wed, 09/29/2021 - 10:20am

A four-year initiative to bring together the expertise of USC Shoah Foundation and the Azrieli Foundation—Canada’s leading nationwide Holocaust education program—has culminated with the release of a robust new destination for teachers and students with a variety of bilingual educational materials based on the memoirs and testimonies of Canadian Holocaust survivors.

The Azrieli Foundation established its Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program in 2005 to collect, preserve and share the memoirs and diaries written by survivors of the Holocaust who came to Canada. Forty-seven of these testimonies have since been integrated into USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive (VHA) and will be preserved in perpetuity. These assets provide the basis for the new classroom-ready, multimedia lessons and activities on IWitness, USC Shoah Foundation’s award-winning educational website.

Presenting eight new activities in English and French co-authored by the Azrieli Foundation and USC Shoah Foundation, the new IWitness Canada page also features curated clips of testimony sorted into thematic categories such as Life before the War; Ghettos and Camp Experiences; Antisemitism; and Post-War Immigration Experiences. Activity themes include The Superhero in You and Me; Where is The Love?; and Defining the Other, Defining the Self.

Examples of testimony given to the Azrieli Foundation and now featured on the IWitness Canada page include Arthur Ney remembering how afraid he felt as a 12-year-old boy left outside the Warsaw ghetto walls and Margrit Rosenberg Stenge reflecting on realizing her Jewish identity as she grew up in Germany.

Lesly Culp, Head of Programs in Education at USC Shoah Foundation, said that the inclusion of the Azrieli Foundation collection into the VHA and the new teaching activities on IWitness allow viewers to better understand the history surrounding the Holocaust and other genocides through the stories of Canadian survivors and witnesses.

“This collaborative venture between our two organizations offers the best of education,” Culp noted.  “Students will gain deep insight by interrogating the multiple primary sources brought together for them—through USC Shoah Foundation testimonies, Azrieli memoirs, and Azrieli’s Re: Collection digital resource, they are afforded a wide range of unique learning opportunities.”

“By using written survivor testimonies and programs built around them, students can connect to the real lives of people who experienced this history,” said Jody Spiegel, Director of the Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program.  “Life is brought back into the story and students are able to form deeper, more meaningful connections.”

Along with the new educational materials, USC Shoah Foundation and the Azrieli Foundation have also developed two IWalks that will be released in the coming weeks. IWalk is an interactive educational app (available from Apple & Google Play stores) created by USC Shoah Foundation that connects concrete physical locations with memories of historical events.

An example of an upcoming Toronto IWalk is A New Life in Toronto: The Story of Anita Ekstein. With the help of the mobile IWalk app, users will be able to walk through Toronto’s Harbord Village, a major Jewish commercial hub following World War II, and learn about the life of Anita Ekstein, who began a new phase of her life there after surviving the Holocaust.

This new suite of resources and accompanying professional development will serve educators throughout Canada and will be made available through USC Shoah Foundation and Azrieli Foundation’s networks in the region.