Trudeau pays emotional visit to Auschwitz


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.

Over 1 million people were murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the former Nazi death camp, in southwestern Poland. 90% were Jews. As a result, Auschwitz has become the focus of Holocaust education for Jews. Many young Israelis are taken on a trip to Auschwitz at the end of high school just before military service. It normally has a profound emotional impact and heightens a sense of fear for the fate of Jews anywhere, and especially Israel.

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)

Source: US National Holocaust Museum

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.




  1. Interesting Peter that PM Trudeau did not make any statement, at least none that I saw or read about, after his experience there. Do you know if he did? I would have expected him to say something, wouldn’t you

  2. Hopefully the “Holocaust” can be kept as separate from and as reasoned as possible in the Israel Palestine situation: by avoiding misleading, unhelpful comparisons but rather using its example as an incentive for, and not as an excuse against, the achievement of a final and just solution for Israel and Palestine and human democratic rights for Jews and Arabs and others – most likely in two equal sovereign states.

  3. Very interesting to read the full statistics on number of Holocaust Death.
    The ‘Russian Tragedy’ of that period is often forgotten, I feel.

  4. Thank you Peter for acknowledging the rest of the people killed during the Holocaust who have been most often forgotten.

  5. I discussed this article with a well read older person. Her response was that since the Jews have already endured the Holocaust, they have the right to live in Israel any way they want. She has was shocked when I said that two wrongs do not make a right, they simply make two wrongs. This article makes it clear just how many groups suffered from this terrible tragedy.

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