Holocaust survivor and Vancouver resident David Schaffer meets American-Israeli graphic artist Miriam Libicki for the first time at Emily Carr University in Vancouver on Jan. 2. Schaffer is one of four Holocaust survivors participating in a University of Victoria-led project to illuminate survivors’ stories with graphic novels. (Courtesy of Mike Morash).

University of Victoria tells stories of Holocaust survivors with graphic novels

International storytelling initiative launched first meetings this winter

A University of Victoria (UVic) project is turning the stories of Holocaust survivors into graphic novels.

The international initiative connects graphic novelists from around the world with four Holocaust survivors living in the Netherlands, Israel and Canada.

In a media release, UVic says the project aims to “teach new generations about racism, anti-Semitism, human rights and social justice while illuminating one of the darkest times in human history.”

READ ALSO: UVic students walk out in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en First Nation Charlotte Schaillié, a Holocaust historian and chair of UVic’s Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies, leads the project, which launched its first meetings this winter.

“Given the advanced age of our survivors, our project takes on an immediate urgency,” Schaillié says in a statement. “What makes the survivors’ participation especially meaningful is that all of them continue to be human rights and social justice activists into their 80s and 90s. They are role models for how we can integrate learning about the Shoah into broader questions of human rights protection.”

The graphic artists include American-Israeli Miriam Libicki – who currently resides in Vancouver – Germany’s Barbara Yelin and Israel’s Gilad Sliktar. The artists will produce three original works of arts, that once completed, will be accompanied by instructional material and teachers’ guides for use in schools around the world.

David Schaffer, a Holocaust survivor living in Vancouver, met with one of the artists Jan.2. Schaffer was deported from Romania by cattle car to a location on the border of current day Moldova and Ukraine, where he and his family “suffered starvation and inhumane living conditions.”

“The the most important thing is to share the story with the general population so they realize what happened and to avoid it happening again,” Schaffer said. “It’s very simple. History has a habit of repeating itself.”

READ ALSO: Student protestors blockade UVic administrative building, fight for fossil fuel divestment

The project is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and has partners around the world, including the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam and Winnipeg’s Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

UVic offers one of Canada’s only masters streams in Holocaust Studies as well as the I-witness Holocaust Field School.

The graphic novels are expected to be available digitally in 2022.



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