Just days after it was inaugurated, the National Holocaust Monument in Ottawa will get a new dedication plaque because the first one made no mention of Jews.
The plaque “has been removed and will be replaced with language that reflects the horrors experienced by the Jewish people,” Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly told the House of Commons on Oct. 3.
Joly’s announcement came in response to a question from Ontario Conservative MP David Sweet, who wondered how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could permit “such a glaring omission of reference to anti-Semitism and the fact that the millions of men, women and children who were murdered were overwhelmingly Jewish? If we are going to stamp out hatred toward Jews, it is important to get history right.”
He urged the government to correct “this profoundly obvious omission.”
The move followed several days of heated online discussions about the original plaque.
On Oct. 3, Conservative Senator Linda Frum tweeted: “In Justin Trudeau’s Canada the new Holocaust Monument plaque doesn’t mention Jews, anti-Semitism or the 6 Million.”
The day before, an article written by Ezra Levant on the right-wing Rebel Media website noted that the monument’s dedication plaque “doesn’t mention the word ‘Jew’ or ‘Jewish’ at all. That’s what the Holocaust was, wasn’t it – six million Jews were killed?”
The original dedication plaque read: “The National Holocaust Monument commemorates the millions of men, women and children murdered during the Holocaust and honours the survivors who persevered and were able to make their way to Canada after one of the darkest chapters in history. The monument recognizes the contribution these survivors have made to Canada and serves as a reminder that we must be vigilant in standing guard against hate, intolerance and discrimination.”
In Justin Trudeau’s Canada the new Holocaust Monument plaque doesn’t mention Jews, Anti-Semitism or the 6 Million. pic.twitter.com/byPGME6V6S
— Senator Linda Frum (@LindaFrum) October 3, 2017
Speaking on background, an official with the heritage ministry told The CJN that the text on the original plaque was approved by the National Holocaust Monument Development Council, the project’s fundraising arm.
Calls to Rabbi Daniel Friedman, chair of the council, were not returned by deadline.
The CJN learned that the new plaque will include the words, “Six million Jews” and “the scourge of anti-Semitism.”
The monument commemorates the six million Jews, “as well as the five million other victims whose lives were extinguished during one of the darkest chapters in human history,” Rachel Rappaport, a Heritage Ministry spokesperson, told The CJN via email.
It “serves as a reminder of our collective responsibility to stand against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms and to never allow intolerance and hate to take root in our communities.”
Dedicated by Trudeau on Sept. 27 before a crowd of 500 politicians, Holocaust survivors and Jewish communal leaders, the $9 million monument was a decade in the planning and construction.
Consisting of six large triangular concrete structures in the shape of a star, reminiscent of the yellow stars Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust, the monument is at the corner of Booth and Wellington streets, next to the Canadian War Museum.
Jews are mentioned prominently elsewhere on explanatory panels at the sprawling monument, as targets of mass murder, subjects of Canada’s discriminatory war-era immigration policy and resisters of Nazi terror.
‘I don’t think it’s malicious.’
Jewish officials said the plaque’s original wording was inadvertent.
“Our understanding is that the omission of Jews from the plaque was an unintentional bureaucratic oversight,” said B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn.
Avi Benlolo, CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, said the first plaque’s wording was “an oversight.”
“It’s being taken very seriously. I’m happy about that. Obviously, we are not happy the mistake was made originally, (but) I don’t think it’s malicious,” he said.
Martin Sampson, a spokesperson for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said his organization noticed on the day of the dedication that the plaque “conspicuously and curiously did not mention Jews. We raised our concerns with the government. They were very responsive, acknowledged the error and agreed to correct it immediately. We expect the new panel to be in place shortly.”
He added that it’s “important to note that Jews and the Jewish experience during the Holocaust are mentioned extensively on other panels on the interior of the monument and the monument itself is in the shape of the Star of David.”
This is the second time Trudeau has faced criticism over memorializing the Holocaust. His statement last year on International Holocaust Remembrance Day did not mention Jews or anti-Semitism, something he fixed in a subsequent tweet.