Toronto students learn about Holocaust from late survivor — thanks to his daughter

·3 min read
Michelle Glied-Goldstein, co-founder of Carrying Holocaust Testimony from Generation to Generation, speaks Thursday to students at North Toronto Collegiate Institute in front of an image of her father.  (Alex Lupul/CBC - image credit)
Michelle Glied-Goldstein, co-founder of Carrying Holocaust Testimony from Generation to Generation, speaks Thursday to students at North Toronto Collegiate Institute in front of an image of her father. (Alex Lupul/CBC - image credit)

Toronto high school students learned about the Holocaust Thursday, not only from the daughter of a survivor, but through the voice of her late father himself.

An assembly for students in honour of Holocaust Remembrance Day at North Toronto Collegiate Institute featured a presentation by Michelle Glied-Goldstein, co-founder of Carrying Holocaust Testimony from Generation to Generation.

Glied-Goldstein started the remembrance project with her father Bill Glied, who was from Subotica, Serbia. When he was 13, he and his family were taken to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in April 1944, where most of them were murdered. He was then transferred to Dachau, where he worked as a slave labourer until he was liberated by the U.S. Army in 1945. The world would eventually learn the Nazis had killed six million Jews, along with millions of Roma, LGBTQ and other victims.

Glied-Goldstein told the students her father first shared his experience with the family when she was 16.

"And once he started talking, he really never stopped," she said.

Up until that point, Glied-Goldstein said she'd always felt that there was something different about her family beyond being immigrants who spoke a different language and ate different foods at home.

"There was a secret, or a burden, something that we knew wasn't talked about in the house," she said.

Alex Lupul/CBC
Alex Lupul/CBC

Glied-Goldstein said her father then travelled across the province to speak to students about the Holocaust.

She showed students photos from several trips her father took with the family and other relatives to various locations in Europe, where events from the Holocaust took place.

Glied-Goldstein conducted a thorough interview with her father about his experiences the year before his death in 2018. She showed students clips from that interview, which she used for context about the timeline and history of the Holocaust.

She'd also recorded clips of her father speaking about specific topics, which she used to answer students' questions.

Arissa Roy, a North Toronto Collegiate student, told CBC News ahead of the assembly she wants to use the pain felt upon hearing these stories to make a difference in the world.

"For me, education has always been one of these tools that our world can use to build a generation that is more equal, that fights these global issues and that knows about our history so that we can learn about the mistakes of the past and build a better future,"

Grade 12 student Angela Krstic said the world is already watching history repeat itself with the current Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"It's extremely important for everyone to know what's happening both now and in the past in order to learn," she said.

"We have to be able to acknowledge other people's experiences in order to learn and grow not only as an individual and as a family, but as a society and a community as a whole."

Student Abdi Abukar said learning any kind of history is "essentially the only way we ever learn."

"By understanding what has happened in the past, effectively for the next generation of leaders, prime ministers and what-not, we'll be able to avoid things like that because any sort of genocide is absolutely terrible and a shame to human history," he said.

Critical to make a 'human connection'

Glied-Goldstein said it's critical that students make a "personal connection" to stories of Holocaust survivors.

"If they make that human connection, I believe it will just resonate more with them, that it will become not just history in a textbook, but actually something that they understand happened to real people and can happen again if they're not aware," she said.

She said she thinks the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors want to be the ones to carry on the stories.

"Thankfully, they didn't live this history, but they feel the history in their bones, and I think they feel a sense of responsibility to do that."

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