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Holocaust survivors given a voice to teach Langara students about their past


Reported by Bala Yogesh

Students learning about the Holocaust in the new Writing Lives: The Holocaust Survivor Memoir Project class at Langara. Photo: Bala Yogesh

A new course at Langara College is teaching students about the Holocaust and the lives and trauma of survivors.

Langara College, in partnership with the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre and the Azrieli Foundation, are conducting the Writing Lives: The Holocaust Survivor Memoir Project class as a two semester course. The first semester of the Writing Lives class has the students learning about the historical background of the Holocaust, while students in the second semester interview a Holocaust survivor and write a memoir.

Writing Lives: The Holocaust Survivor Memoir Project is proving to impact the lives of students

Robin Macqueen, division chair of Health Sciences at Langara who became a student for this class, said this is a special course.

“We already had one Holocaust survivor [as a speaker],” said Macqueen. “He was born in 1939. He was hidden as a child, so that he would not be captured by the Nazis. The experience of hearing a Holocaust survivor talk about what that was like is very moving,” he said. “It’s not an experience you would get from a book.”

Rachel Mines an English professor at Langara College, teaches students about the Holocaust. Photo: Bala Yogesh

Rachel Mines, an English professor at Langara who teaches the Writing Lives class said that the students understand that this is the last generation of Holocaust survivors to be alive.

“These survivors are in their 70s and 80s, and they were children during the Holocaust. […] In 20-25 years, there will no longer be a generation that has experienced [The] Holocaust first hand,” Mines said.

Survivors from the Holocaust finally get a chance to share the trauma of their past

Mines was contacted by Adara Goldberg of Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre to see if a course could be setup at Langara College. After contacting the department chair, the division chair and a number of people at Langara College, it was decided that the program would be a great experience for students.

Lucille Welburn, a student in the course, says that the memoirs are important for the survivors and their families. “Many of them didn’t tell their families about their past. It’s something they keep locked up inside,” she said.

“For all the things that they lost, maybe they can gain something back, maybe their memories [are] out there.”


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