Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, accompanied by Foreign Minister Stephane Dion and several leading members of the Canadian Jewish Community. His emotional visit will clearly play a role in his government’s approach to the Israel/Palestine issue. Read more.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was given a personal glimpse into one of the darkest chapters in human history through the recollections of Nate Leipciger, a Jewish holocaust survivor who now lives in Toronto. His emotions were on display as he wept openly. While Trudeau is very media sensitive, few would doubt the sincerity of his gesture.
Auschwitz has also become a common stop for political leaders from around the world. Trudeau asked to visit it following the NATO summit in Warsaw. Both Jean Chrétien and Stephen Harper had also visited Auschwitz during their terms as prime minister.
Many victims of Nazism
Its hard to imagine today the sociopathic determination of the Nazis to eliminate both political opponents and all ethnic groups which did not fit into their Ayrian worldview. Communists, social democrats, Jehovahs Witnesses, people with mental and physical deformities were among the many groups targeted for physical elimination. The camp at Auschwitz was one of the largest camps, but in all more than 40,000 camps were established across Central and Eastern Europe.
While those murdered at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp were overwhelmingly Jews, overall, Jews accounted for about 35% of Holocaust victims (i.e. civilians deliberately murdered by the Nazis), according to the United States National Holocaust Museum.
Number of Holocaust Deaths (by order of magnitude)
- Soviet civilians: around 7 million (including 1.3 Soviet Jewish civilians, who are included in the 6 million figure for Jews)
- Jews: up to 6 million
- Soviet prisoners of war: around 3 million (including about 50,000 Jewish soldiers)
- Non-Jewish Polish civilians: around 1.8 million (including between 50,000 and 100,000 members of the Polish elites)
- Serb civilians (on the territory of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina): 312,000
- People with disabilities living in institutions: up to 250,000
- Roma (Gypsies): 196,000–220,000
- Jehovah’s Witnesses: Around 1,900
- Repeat criminal offenders and so-called asocials: at least 70,000
- German political opponents and resistance activists in Axis-occupied territory: undetermined
- Homosexuals: hundreds, possibly thousands (possibly also counted in part under the 70,000 repeat criminal offenders and so-called asocials noted above)
How might this influence current Canadian policy toward Israel/Palestine?
Mr. Trudeau was accompanied by several prominent Canadian Jews including Rabbi Adam Scheier of the Congregation Shaar Hashomayim in Montreal, and David J. Cape, Chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). Rabbi Scheier is an important advocate for Canadian support for Israel against the Palestinians. He often posts on the CIJA website. Last October he launched a campaign in Canada based on Israel’s claim that the Palestinian Authority is “inciting” hatred of Jews.
It can be expected that Mr. Cape and Rabbi Scheier will use the Nazi atrocities against Jews in Auschwitz as an argument that in the middle east, Canada should be more concerned about the security of Jews than about the Palestinian claims for justice.