Not long after an event associated with Holocaust Education Week (HEW) concluded, staff at the Morris Winchevsky Centre in Toronto found posters on the property, calling on people to join the local Nazi movement.
“White revolution is the only solution; Join your local Nazis,” read one of the posters, which included an image of a human skull. Another featured an illustration of a gas mask under a Nazi-era helmet, with the caption, “Antifa watch out, we are watching.”
Only hours before, the centre, located near the intersection of Bathurst and Lawrence, had hosted an event that discussed the Holocaust and called attention to the modern-day plight of the Rohingya People in Myanmar.
Around the same time, more or less coinciding with Holocaust Education Week and Remembrance Day, pro-Nazi posters were found at the University of British Columbia (UBC). They featured a photo of Nazi troops under the caption, “Lest we forget; The true heroes of WW2.” The posters were placed at entrances to the War Memorial Gym, where the campus’ Remembrance Day ceremonies were being held.
Police were called to the scene in both cities.
Det. Jose Dizon of the Toronto Police Service said that an investigation is under way. The posters have been removed for forensic examination, to determine if fingerprints can be found on them.
It is too early to say whether the investigation will lead to the laying of hate promotion charges, he added.
“People were angry, concerned and they were shocked,” said Sue Goldstein, the Winchevsky Centre’s communications and administration co-ordinator.
Photographs of the posters were posted on the centre’s Facebook page and they quickly made the rounds, with more than 6,000 views in only a few days, Goldstein said.
“It’s something that concerns people. A lot of people are upset about this kind of hate being propagated in Canada,” she said.
Rachel Epstein, executive director of the United Jewish Peoples Organization and the Winchevsky Centre, said it appears as though nearby businesses on Bathurst Street were also targeted with the posters. “I don’t know the extent of it,” she said.
“Nobody’s happy with the Nazi posters. It’s upsetting,” Epstein continued. “It’s part of a rise in the right in general. There is a white supremacist movement that’s growing and it’s scary,but it doesn’t stop us from doing our work. We’re bigger than they are.”
The posters at UBC included the Internet addresses of several pro-Nazi websites.
“The posters that were discovered at War Memorial Gym this morning are disturbing and of serious concern, particularly on a day when we collectively honour and remember all those who served in times of war, military conflict and peace,” said Philip Steenkamp, vice-president of external relations at UBC, in a prepared statement.
A few days before, a swastika and the words, “Heil Hitler,” were found at the Forestry Sciences Centre. That followed a similar incident in November, the student newspaper the Ubyssey reported.
The RCMP and campus security were informed and were investigating the incident, and while no leads have been found, they have stated that patrols will be stepped up in the area, according to the Ubyssey.
Responding to the incidents, Chabad at UBC, in conjunction with Hillel BC, announced they would hold a “Mitzvah Day” marathon on Nov. 17, which will challenge students “to carry out a random act of kindness as a way of countering two recent anti-Semitic and bigoted incidents, which made headlines at the university.”
“These acts of anti-Semitic vandalism that has taken place on our campus left many students feeling unnerved. The Jewish response to darkness has always been to increase light. By doing additional mitzvot – acts of kindness – we have the ability to make this a more loving and respectful place, both locally and globally,” said Rabbi Chalom Loeub, director of Chabad Jewish Student Centre – Vancouver.