Planted memories

Students use daffodils to memorialize Holocaust victims

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Thursday marked the first time Queen’s Hillel engaged high school students in a Holocaust memorial ceremony.

A group of around 27 students from a grade ten history class at Queen Elizabeth Collegiate and Vocational Institute (QECVI) planted daffodils in memory of approximately 1.5 million child deaths during the Holocaust. These efforts are part of the Daffodil Project, launched in Kingston last year by Queen’s Hillel.

Since the Hebrew symbol for ‘life’ is associated with the number 18 in Judaism, 180 daffodils were planted at QECVI — a number that is “10 times life,” according to event organizer Ashlee Woolfson, ArtSci ‘13.

“Daffodils grow like the Jewish star which represents the Jewish star [people] were forced to wear during the Holocaust,” she said. “Each daffodil represents each child who never got to see where their life could take them.” 

QEVCI was the first secular group and first high school in the world to take part in the planting ceremony. Other major planting ceremonies have taken place in Atlanta, New Orleans and Savannah, GA. 

Approximately 13,250 daffodils have been planted since the campaign began in 2010.

Woolfson started the project in Kingston after talking to a family friend who organizes the planting ceremony in Atlanta, where the head organization, Am Yisrael Chai! is based.

She said the idea to get high school students involved came about after meeting at a local synagogue with Pamela Simon, a grade ten history teacher at QECVI.

“She’s very inspirational and very into implementing Holocaust education into high school education,” Woolfson said.

“It’s very important to further solidify in their minds how important it is,” she added. “It’s not just a subject in school that you learn and forget.”

As part of the ceremony, Jochebed Katan, the only remaining Holocaust survivor in Kingston, spoke to high school students about her experience living in hiding during Nazi-occupied Holland from 1942-45.

She said she was sent to live with another family when she was four months old and was reunited with her parents, who spent the war hiding in barns in northern Holland, when she was around four years-old.

Katan, who wore yellow for the occasion and spoke at last year’s Daffodil planting ceremony, said she tries to speak to as many young people as possible about her experiences.

“It’s very important that I share my story to the next generation so that I keep the experiences of these people alive.”

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