TORONTO (May. 2)
A national Canadian museum commemorating genocide in the 20th century may disrupt the government’s plans for a Holocaust museum in the country, according to Canadian Jewish officials.
John Gregorovich, chairman of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, is spearheading the campaign for the genocide museum. He has fashioned a coalition of some 20 Canadian ethnic associations with participants from diverse backgrounds, including Asian, Armenian, Turkish and Palestinian.
The coalition, Canadians for a Genocide Museum, is proposing a museum that would focus on events such as the Turkish atrocities in Armenia during World War I, Stalin’s enforced famine in Ukraine in the 1930s, the mass murders in Rwanda, Bosnia and Cambodia, as well as the Nazi slaughter of 6 million Jews during World War II.
Moshe Ronen, national president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said his group has no objection to a separate genocide museum, but that the Holocaust museum should go ahead as planned.
The issue has sparked some tension and difference of opinion over the uniqueness of the Holocaust and its place as a defining event of the 20th century.
While Gregorovich criticizes Jewish lobbying for a museum that would concentrate only on Jewish losses, Sol Littman, Canadian representative of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, accuses Gregorovich of “issue envy” and said he is manipulating other ethnic associations.
Ronen said that government recognition of the Holocaust’s uniqueness would be meaningful and important to Canada’s Jewish community.
“Our view is that while history is replete with atrocities, the Holocaust is a special case,” he said.
“It would be very simple for the Jewish community to raise the money and put up a private museum, but we’re looking for a state-run facility. We want Canada to take its place among the nations that have established Holocaust museums.”
Ottawa has shown support for a federally operated Holocaust museum in the nation’s capital and the project has been endorsed by each of the five parties in Canada’s Parliament.
Last year, a federal plan to add a Holocaust Gallery to the Canadian War Museum was derailed after Canadian veterans objected on the grounds that the Holocaust had little to do with the experience of the Canadian military during the war.
After that, the government indicated it would seek a suitable site in Ottawa for a stand-alone Holocaust museum. It also announced that it would stage a Canada-wide traveling exhibit on the Holocaust in cooperation with the Canadian Museum of Civilization. But a museum spokeswoman said no plans have been made yet for this exhibit.