MONTREAL, MAY 8, 2012 – The Consulate General of the State of Israel, in conjunction with the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre, the Riva and Thomas O. Hecht Scholarship Program, Teaching of the Holocaust for Educators, the City of Côte Saint-Luc, the English Montreal School Board and the Office of Mount Royal Liberal Member of Parliament Irwin Cotler,will announce plans to mark the centennial of the birth of Raoul Wallenberg. This will take place on Friday, May 11 (10:20 a.m.) at Bialik High School (6500 Kildare Road) in Côte Saint-Luc and include some distinguished speakers.
Raoul Wallenberg was the Swedish diplomat who saved the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust. While serving as Swedish envoy in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, from July 1944, Wallenberg gave Jews Swedish travel documents and set up safe houses for them. He is also credited with dissuading German officers from massacring the 70,000 inhabitants of the city’s ghetto.
Ron Meisel, a Holocaust survivor who was among the Jews saved by Wallenberg, will be in attendance. His video testimonial will be shown on the big screen.
The Nazis, who occupied Hungary in early 1944, launched mass deportations of Hungarian Jews to concentration camps such as Auschwitz with the collaboration of local authorities. Wallenberg disappeared after being arrested in Hungary by the Soviet Red Army in 1945. The Russians have said he was executed on July 17, 1947, but unverified witness accounts and newly uncovered evidence suggest he may have lived beyond that date.
Israel Consul General for Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces, Joel Lion, will formally announce plans for a Raoul Wallenberg Legacy Competition Project. Students from Bialik will be joined in the audience by their counterparts from a number of other local schools, including Marymount Academy in N.D.G., LaurenHill Academy in St. Laurent and Westmount High School.
Plans call for this to be an interactive project in which students from Montreal area high schools will seek to explain to their fellow peers in a three to four minute video how Raoul Wallenberg’s legacy and message is still relevant in their own lifetime. Students will have complete access to video files from different Holocaust-related websites.
Winners of the competition will receive a special certificate and be honoured at a breakfast hosted by the Consul General of Israel in December 2012 followed by a visit to the Montreal Holocaust Museum. All of the videos will be posted on the EMSB Vimeo site and made available to school teachers as resource teachers.
The legacy of Raoul Wallenberg will also be marked by the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre during their Holocaust Education Series next fall. On May 23 (5:30 p.m.) the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation of Montreal will hold a commemoration at the Monument at Raoul Wallenberg Square (600 de Maisonneuve).
The EMSB will work with The Riva and Thomas O. Hecht Scholarship Program, Teaching of the Holocaust for Educators, to solicit participation from English and French public and private schools in the Montreal area. Each year the The Riva and Thomas O. Hecht Scholarship Program, Teaching of the Holocaust for Educators, sponsors teachers to attend a Summer Session of the International Seminar for Educators at Yad Vashem. Past winners represent a natural connection to bring the Wallenberg story into the classrooms.
Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather, working with City Councillors Mike Cohen and Allan J. Levine, proposed a local launch of the Wallenberg commemoration in their city for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Côte Saint-Luc is the home to a large Jewish community per capita in the world. As well, Wallenberg was inducted to the city’s Human Rights Walkway at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park a number of years ago.
Speakers will include Consul General Lion, Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Housefather, Professor Irwin Cotler, Liberal MNA for D’Arcy McGee MNA Lawrence Bergman, EMSB Commissioner Syd Wise, Thomas O. Hecht, Bialik Principal Ken Scott and students Allix Caron and Tori Perlman. Peter Rona from the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation will also be on hand.