In August, Genocide Education Canada will be leading teachers on a truly once-in-a-lifetime Holocaust mission to Lithuania, Belarus, and Poland -- where the Holocaust really took place.
Indeed, it was in those four countries where over 80% of all those Jews killed during the Holocaust had lived. And, visiting a combination of Lithuania, Belarus, and Poland will provide teachers with an opportunity to better understand both the mass shootings that began the Holocaust (in places like Lithuania and Belarus) and the more industrial killing of the death camps in Poland that have come to symbolize the Holocaust. In fact, many historians believe that the Holocaust really began in Lithuania, as it was there that the systematic, successive liquidation of Jewish communities began, with the result that 80% of Lithuanian Jewry had been destroyed by the end of 1941, just six months after the start of Operation Barbarosa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. It was within the first four days of the invasion of the Soviet Union that the first killing - 1,500 Jews - took place in Kaunas.
Visiting a combination of Lithuania, Belarus, and Poland will also provide teachers with an opportunity to better understand an entire world that was destroyed -- the shtetls. It was in Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, and Ukraine where the shtetls - the small towns in pre-World War II Eastern Europe that had large Yiddish-speaking Jewish populations - were liquidated, thereby destroying an entire way of life. And, it was that destruction that was the essence of the Holocaust.
Visiting a combination of Lithuania, Belarus, and Poland will also provide teachers with opportunities to better understand the collaboration of local populations in the Holocaust and the problem of memory and remembrance in those countries in the wake of that collaboration.
And, of course, visiting a combination of Lithuania, Belarus, and Poland will also provide teachers with opportunities to better understand the armed and unarmed response of Jews in the ghettos and as partisans in the forest.