Defending Our Future. Protecting Our Past.
Defending Our Future. Protecting Our Past.
Join AGPI's Annual mission to Poland and Israel to learn about the Holocaust, Antisemitism and human rights.
Read this beautiful poem written by Heidi Liu, a participant in the 2023 AGPI Mission to Auschwitz and Israel
President of the International Association of Police Chiefs, Chief John Letteney (R), presents AGPI's Avi Abraham Benlolo with the "IACP Recognition Award" in recognition of AGPI's police academy training program's mission to Auschwitz and Israel. IACP is the largest and most influential international police organization.
Dear Law Enforcement Professional: The picture on your left is one of our proudest moments. We were gratified that new cadets with the Edmonton Police Service had the opportunity to be inspired by our new Power of One exhibit (featured behind the cadets). We invite you to partner with us to draw on our message and enhance your professional development. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We partner with police services from coast to coast to inspire and educate about making the world a better place. Our Power of One exhibit has been featured by the Vancouver, Toronto, Edmonton, Halton and Peel police service. AGPI has also been welcomed by the RCMP and OPP - holding substantive events to mark human rights, diversity and equity.
Recently, we partnered with both the National Police Force and the Foreign Ministry of Colombia, to provide a series of comprehensive workshops about the Holocaust and Antisemitism. We spoke with hundreds of commanders and senior officers in an effort to provide a human-rights first perspective.
AGPI regularly presents to Canadian Police like the CPA which is a 60,000 strong police association. It has presented to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police and several other leadership groups.
We are working in partnership with police services to combat the rising tide of Antisemitism and hate crime. We have already provided a number of briefings including to the Canadian Association of Police Governance and this summer to the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, the largest provincial police association in the country.
How do we respond to hate crime? Fighting hate and intolerance should matter to everyone. The Swastika is not only offensive to the Jewish community, it should be offensive to all nations who fought against the Nazis. Our message is one of togetherness and understanding that its about one for all and all for one.
Peel Regional Police Honour Guard Welcomes AGPI to its headquarters to launch The Power of One exhibit - June 2022
PRESIDENT OF THE CANADIAN ASSOCIATION OF CHIEFS OF POLICE:
"I became aware of a pit in my stomach — a mixture of profound sorrow, humiliation, and anger — that people allowed this to happen. There had been plenty of signs leading up to "the final solution", yet many of the leaders of the day took no action and were complicit in their silence".
** Reprint from Original Publication in the Canadian Police Chief Magazine **
NOTE: We thank our donors for their generous support in making our educational programs impactful. This reflective piece is part of The Abraham Global Peace Initiative's Police Academy. If you like our work, help advance AGPI's educational programs by donating HERE.
Abraham Global Peace Initiative
By Chief Danny Smyth, President of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police
I RECENTLY JOINED POLICE leaders from Canada and the United States who travelled to Poland and Israel to retrace parts of the journey that many Jewish Holocaust survivors endured many years earlier. The trip was facilitated by the Abraham Global Peace Initiative and our host Avi Benlolo, one of Canada’s most prominent experts in Holocaust studies and advocacy against antisemitism and discrimination. It was an experience I will never forget.
We arrived in the City of Krakow, home to one of the oldest Jewish communities in Poland. It was populated by 60,000–80,000 Polish Jews whose ancestors started to settle there during the 13th century. Our first outing: a memorial service on the grounds of the former Plaszow Concentration Camp.
This camp was established at the end of 1942 when Jewish occupants of the Krakow ghetto were forced to build the camp on the site of two Jewish cemeteries in the Plaszow district, on the outskirts of Krakow. The camp operated between February 1943 and January 1945, primarily under the command of SS Camp Commandant Amon Goth, who was notorious for abusing and murdering prisoners. During its peak, the camp held about 24,000 prisoners. It is believed that about 3,000 people were murdered at Plaszow, with many more thousands being deported to Auschwitz and other nearby camps and murdered there.
Today, little remains of the original forced labour camp. In 1944, the last prisoners were ordered to take down the barracks and exhume corpses from mass graves to burn them. It was an attempt to cover up the camp’s existence and the crimes that were committed there. Afterwards, the remaining prisoners were forced to march to Auschwitz.
The Plaszow site has since been transformed into a memorial park where, in 1964, a seven-meter-high Memorial to the Victims of Fascism in Krakow was unveiled (pictured on the left). This is where I laid a wreath on behalf of all CACP members.
Our tour of the Krakow ghetto began at the Square of Empty Chairs, a memorial to the people who died in the German Nazi extermination camps. The chairs are strategically placed in the direction of crematoriums the Jews were taken to. Each chair represents 1,000 people who were taken to their deaths; 68 chairs in all.
Members of Krakow’s Jewish community began to be persecuted soon after the Nazi occupation. It started with Jews being ordered to report for forced labour around the city. Within months, Jews over twelve were required to wear armbands bearing the yellow Star of David so they could be readily identified. By mid-1941, a cleansing of the Jewish community began with a series of deportations. Only 15,000 Jewish workers and their families were allowed to remain in Krakow and forced to live in a Jewish ghetto. Those deported were deemed expendable.
Jewish ghettos were established in cities and towns throughout Poland to separate and isolate Jewish communities from the rest of the population and from each other. The largest was established in Warsaw, where nearly half a million Jews were confined. In Krakow, approximately 15,000 Jews were imprisoned in an area that had previously housed 3,000 people. Four families would live in a space that previously housed one. Perhaps not well understood is that the previous non-Jewish occupants were displaced to allow the establishment of the ghetto. The area was then walled in to control the comings and goings of the occupants. Buildings with windows or doors that faced out of the ghetto were boarded up, furthering the isolation.
Life was difficult in the ghetto, but there were people who helped the confined Jews to survive. One of the most notable was the Pharmacist Tadeusz Pankiewicz. With permission from the Nazis, he operated a pharmacy within the ghetto where he distributed medication and often supplied hair dyes to those who wanted to try to escape. His pharmacy became a hub for communication and news from the outside world. Perhaps most importantly, he chronicled the deportation activities around the ghetto. He was later bestowed the title Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem. Today, the Pankiewicz Pharmacy is a museum that memorializes his heroic deeds.
Throughout 1943, occupants of the Krakow ghetto were deported to death camps in Belzek and Auschwitz and the concentration camp in Plaszow. As many as 600 occupants were killed in the ghetto during the liquidation, many of those children.
Like many cities and towns in occupied Poland, Oswiecim became known by its German name: Auschwitz. The infamous death and concentration camps were built on the city’s outskirts. I didn’t realize that what started as a single camp with 22 buildings soon expanded into three camps and 40 sub-camps.
I began the tour of Auschwitz I (the Main Camp) with trepidation. Like most of my generation, I had been educated about the Holocaust, but now I was about to see what has become known as its universal symbol. Security is reasonably tight as we enter. Like boarding an airplane, it is necessary to purchase a personalized ticket, have identification with you, and pass through security. We paused for a photo at the main gate above which, cast in iron, were the words: "Arbeit macht frei." Work sets you free. A sick irony that would set the tone for the morning.
The Main Camp is a series of neatly constructed brick buildings surrounded by a barbed wire fence. At first glance, it has the look and feel of a military base, but that is where the similarities end. Within the walls, laid out for the world to see, was the cruelty of "the final solution".
Words could never do justice to the things we all witnessed during the tour: the selection process where families were separated, stripped of their belongings, and designated for forced labour or death; the detailed records and photos of the people selected to labour in the camp; and the "black wall" used to routinely execute camp occupants, nestled between the infamous Block 10 (used for medical experimentation) and Block 11 (used to punish and torture).
The tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau involved walking along the railway tracks that passed through the entrance gates to the heart of the camp. Nothing prepared me for the sheer scale of the 500-acre camp considered the largest of the death camps. Barracks that housed up to 200,000 people extended across vast fields on either side of the railway tracks.
A well-preserved cattle car serves as a visual reminder of how the Jewish people were transported to the camp from around Europe. Warehouses were constructed near the prisoner processing site to store the seized belongings of all who arrived. One of those warehouses was named Canada. Near the processing site were not one but four crematoriums, diabolically designed to kill with maximum efficiency.
As the day wore on, I became aware of a pit in my stomach — a mixture of profound sorrow, humiliation, and anger — that people allowed this to happen. There had been plenty of signs leading up to "the final solution", yet many of the leaders of the day took no action and were complicit in their silence. Many people claimed they were following orders. Today, we live in a very polarized and volatile time. There are signs of rising antisemitism. The leaders of today must remember the lessons of the past and must be vigilant.
Also representing Chief Smyth on our visit were Aviva Rotenberg, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and Halifax Chief Dan Kinsella.
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