Future Grade 10 students in B.C. will learn about the Holocaust as part of a broadened social studies curriculum starting in 2025-26 school.
Premier David Eby announced the measure Monday (Oct. 30) afternoon at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver in the presence of Dr. Robert Krell, who spoke at the event as a Holocaust survivor. Other speakers included Alvin Wasserman, JCC president, and Nina Krieger, executive director of the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre.
Eby made the announcement against the backdrop of the current conflict between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas in the Gaza Strip following Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7. Recent weeks have also seen a rise in incidents of antisemitism including violent incidents.
“For our friends and neighbours in the Jewish community, this has been an incredibly frightening time,” Eby said. “We have seen a rise in antisemitism in B.C. following the terrorist attacks in Israel, which evokes the history of persecution of Jews. Combating this kind of hate begins with learning from the darkest parts of our history, so the same horrors are never repeated. That’s why we are working with the Jewish community to make sure learning about the Holocaust becomes a requirement for all high school students.”
While the Holocaust, the systematic state-sponsored extermination of an estimated six million Jews by Nazi Germany and its allies during the Second World, is already part of the provincial curriculum, studies continue to find gaps in the knowledge about the event.
A 2021 survey of 3,593 teens across Canada and the United States by Liberation75, a Toronto-based organization dedicated to commemorating the 75th anniversary of liberation from the Holocaust through public education, found Holocaust denial to be a “real and concerning” phenomenon.
While two-thirds of respondents agreed that the Holocaust happened and that the number of Jews that died in it has been fairly described, a third “reported feeling that the Holocaust was an exaggerated or fabricated event, or that they were not sure if it actually happened,” it reads.
The changes will take effect in the 2025-26 school year to allow for consultation and development with the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, the Jewish community and education partners.
Ontario became the first Canadian province to make Holocaust education mandatory on Nov. 9 — the 84th anniversary of Kristallnacht, when the Nazi regime orchestrated pogroms across Germany and other annexed parts of Europe against synagogues, Jewish businesses and institutions. Close to 100 people died during the pogroms with many more suffering injuries and dying in their aftermath.
Historians consider Kristallnacht a preview and test of Nazi policies and methods during the war years, culminating in the establishment of death camps like Auschwitz and Treblinka. Historians estimate that 1 million Jews died alone in Auschwitz. Nazis also killed 5.7 million Soviet prisoners of war, 1.8 million Polish civilians, 312,000 Serb civilians and hundreds of thousands of individuals from other groups, including Roma, people with disabilities, Freemasons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, gays and lesbians.
Next to Israel, Holocaust education is mandatory in about a dozen western countries, including Germany, Austria and Hungary, as well as about two dozen U.S. states. Several countries have also laws that criminally prosecuted Holocaust denial and the showing of Nazi symbols.
B.C.’s governments will also consider other additions to the Grade 10 social studies curriculum to reflect the diversity and history of B.C. They include topics such as the destruction of Hogan’s Alley, Japanese internment and discrimination against other culturally diverse groups such as Muslim, East-Asian, Black and South-Asian communities.