What do we wish to see? From a distance this is a beautifully-manicured formal garden. And many of us would like to continue looking at it from this distance.

Today, January 27th, has been marked by the United Nations as the international remembrance day commemorating the liberation of the remaining victims of the most notorious Nazi murder camp of WWII in southern Poland.

After an unspeakable life of surviving WWII my parents took our family from our home country, Poland, to a country, Canada, that promised a better future. But there was already another “Canada” located in this most infamous Nazi death camp in southern Poland. This “Canada” was a section of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp named so by its inmates, but not because the country of Canada had anything to do with it. It was because Canada represented some far away paradise that could only be dreamed of, where all the cruelty of that twisted world did not exist. When one could only look forward to a gas chamber there was a Canada somewhere.

What was this paradise that those inmates dreamt of, what is it now and what could it be in the future?

From a British Dominion we have become a multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-religious society. This complexity can create dangers and it can also create opportunities. We can become a model of anger, hatred and disrespect or one of tolerance, understanding and respect. Our future can be seen clearly by looking at the choices made by people prior to WWII and listening to the last remaining witnesses of that era.

There are so very few remaining survivors of Auschwitz now, and soon there will be none. What are those survivors telling Canadians?

The survivors have reminded us that there was a pleasant-looking Uncle Adolf who was a meticulous keeper of a beautiful, formal garden. His mission was to remove all the weeds and foreign specimens that did not belong. He placed all his plantings in orderly rows and created straight walkways between. While this was taking shape many watched from a distance and accepted that this is what it was. Just a well-kept, organized, and beautiful garden. The survivors told us that Uncle Adolf could not have done all this work without his immortal assistants, Secrecy and Indifference. The survivors are telling us that there are Uncle Adolfs everywhere but their work can be of minimal effect and importance without the help of Secrecy and Indifference. When Canadians allow Secrecy and Indifference to live amongst us we will reap the “rewards” of Auschwitz and the results of WWII. The rewards can be similar to the annihilation of vast parts of Europe, its historical treasures and its peoples.

Through the filters of our sunglasses we can chose to see our world in many ways. Many of us have chosen to wear the glasses that allow us to only see the beautiful, formal garden. If we stay far enough away we do not have to explain why we do not see what the survivors of Auschwitz have seen.