Holocaust educator and best-selling author Max Eisen was honoured on June 11 in Vaughan, Ont.
With friends and family attending, and in the presence of two rabbis and an imam, Eisen was presented with the key to the city by Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua and the Max T. Eisen Community Room was unveiled at the York Regional Police District 4 headquarters.
It marked only the third time in Vaughan’s history that a key to the city was given out.
The honour “is reserved for distinguished individuals as recognition for their contribution in areas of human endeavour including business, sport, arts and culture, public service, education and human rights,” read a statement from the city. “Mr. Max Eisen is among the select few to be a recipient.”
A survivor of Auschwitz, Eisen has devoted much of his life to speaking to youth about the need to eliminate racism and bigotry. For years, he has travelled across the country to share his experiences with thousands of Canadians, speaking at schools, universities and to the media. He is a regular on the annual March of the Living, which takes students to the site of the Auschwitz death camp.
In 2016, Eisen published his memoirs, By Chance Alone: A Remarkable True Story of Courage and Survival at Auschwitz, which won the 2019 Canada Reads Award.
“Courage, conviction and the ultimate belief in the greater good are sacred personal traits that are worthy of meaningful recognition,” Bevilacqua stated. “Max Eisen embodies these virtues. He is a strong and resilient individual who survived the Holocaust. From these personal experiences, he has become a beacon of hope and a source of inspiration.
The mayor noted that he travelled with Eisen to Poland and Israel with the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies.
“Together, we toured the concentration camps in Auschwitz where Mr. Eisen had been detained. Through his personal experiences and life’s work, he has demonstrated an exceptional capacity to promote the importance of the noble values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. I am blessed to call Mr. Eisen my teacher and pleased to recognize his contribution to the city of Vaughan,” said Bevilacqua.
In his remarks, Eisen said the event was “truly an honour for which I would like to extend my deepest thanks and appreciation to York Regional Police Chief (Eric) Jolliffe and Supt. Ricky Veerappan. This honour is not just recognition for my community work over the last 32 years, it also represents accomplishing an important personal mission in my life: to tell the world what happened. And equally important to me is the realization that institutions such as the York Regional Police are committed to protecting and serving all of us, so that together we can build a better, more tolerant society.
“My hope is that this hall, bearing my name, will bring people of all colours and faiths together to talk, to socialize and to respect one another.”
Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center CEO Avi Benlolo said Eisen could have turned his personal loss and suffering to anger and silence. “Instead, he has dedicated his life to inspiring millions of people to be compassionate, caring and respectful of one another. He truly serves as a role model for all Canadians.”