A Forgotten Story: The Race Against Time to Unearth the Holocaust by Bullets – 1941-1944

When you think of the Holocaust, what images immediately come to mind?  Perhaps you see the infamous Arbeit Macht Frei sign above the gated entry to Auschwitz I, emaciated bodies, crowded conditions, barracks in concentrations camps, yellow stars, victims forced to board trains, or tattoos that branded prisoners and slave labourers. For most people, images of gas chambers and of emaciated bodies of Jews, Poles, Gypsies, homosexuals and others in concentration camps like Auschwitz first come to mind when the Holocaust is mentioned.  The systematic murder of 2.25 million Jews during the “Holocaust by bullets” in present day Ukraine and Bella Russia between 1941 and 1944 is often forgotten, or simply overlooked.

These images reflect that more personal form of killing (editors note: some of these images are graphic): Continue reading

Is Wikipedia Worth the Trouble?

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Formally launched by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger in 2001, Wikipedia — the “free encyclopedia that anyone can edit” — has become the first (and often only) stop in Internet fact-finding.

With well over ten million articles to date, Wikipedia has evaded overt corporate influence through a non-profit structure and currently ranks among the top ten most visited sites on all of the web.  Or so it would seem.

Of course, all of that sounds about right; but, since the above information is entirely derived from Wikipedia itself we can’t really be too sure, can we? Continue reading

Craig Heron distills Toronto’s booze-soaked past at second History Matters series lecture

"Fermenting Room", 1916. Image from City of Toronto Archives

Canadian historian Craig Heron recently presented an entertaining talk at the second event of the History Matters lecture series, sponsored by the Toronto Public Library.

Heron discussed a number of aspects in the social history of alcohol in Toronto, from the public importance of nineteenth-century taverns to the imposition of prohibition in the early twentieth century.  The Annette Street library was an appropriate locale for the talk, since the Junction neighbourhood in which the library is located was the last remaining dry district in Toronto.

Heron’s talk is available here for audio download.

The next History Matters lectures take place Thursday, October 14th, when Jennifer Bonnell talks about prisons, pollution and homelessness in Toronto’s Don Valley, while Jay Young analyzes the building of Canada’s first subway under Yonge Street.  Click here for more details.

Kill the “Indian” and Save the “Wild”: Vocabularies with Political Consequences in Indigenous Studies

How is it that we know the importance of words in shaping our perceptions, but forget to examine our naming practices beyond the naming of Indigenous peoples?

Photo by Carl G. Linde, provided by Lake of the Woods District Museum, Kenora, Ontario

How is it that we perceive images like this as Indians hunting among or in the “wild” rice?  What exactly presents us from reading the visual as “Crop Maitenance” or “Pest Control”?

As Indigenous historians, we debate the use of “Indian” in reference to law or colonial parlance.  We know it is a misnomer, a combination of geographical error and personal folly.  We suggest “First Nations” is best because it implies sovereignty and long-term presence.  Specific Tribal names like Migmaq, Haundenosaunee, Nehilawe, and Anishinaabe, wow us because we think that they represent a people as they would represent themselves.

We write books about representation.  We have a field called “Identity Studies.”  We know what it means to be labelled and how a label, in shaping lives, becomes real.  We write to create awareness and to challenge stereotypes.

And yet, we focus on the names of peoples.  We neglect renaming the very things that sustain Indigenous populations.  I ask you, what assumption do the names for material things, tangible things carry?  I believe we need to revisit our most basic assumptions in Indigenous studies, in identity studies.  We cannot create a positive image of Indigenous populations unless we create positive images for the objects that they encounter, consume, and create. Continue reading

Learning new lessons from old lessons learned: why Canadian immigration policy should heed caution to Australia’s precedents

by Laura Madokoro

Recently, the Canadian Immigration Minister travelled around the world to consult with foreign governments on global migration issues. Jason Kenney’s meetings with his Australian counterparts drew special media interest given Australia’s well-known “tough stance” on would-be asylum seekers. Kenney made it clear that Canada and Australia would be working together on human smuggling issues in particular. He declared, “Canada intends to work domestically and internationally to combat the crime and fraud associated with the treacherous journey some immigrants make to Canada. At the same time, we need to ensure that those in need of protection have access to it, and we look forward to working with partners such as Australia.” Continue reading

South Yorkshire and the Nickel Belt: Parallels to Avoid

Lake in Canada's Nickel Belt near Sudbury

David Zylberberg

From at least 1929, the Nickel Belt region around Sudbury was the main operation of two large and generally successful mining companies, INCO and Falconbridge. Although there were a number of labour disputes, periodic layoffs and major expansions, the situation largely continued until the commodity boom of the mid 2000s. There was a spate of acquisitions and mergers in the international mining sector and the world’s second and third largest nickel companies received global interest. In 2006, Falconbridge was acquired by a Swiss Company, XSTRATA, while INCO became part of Brazilian VALE in a $19 billion dollar sale. Since these both involved the sale of Canadian companies to foreign investors, they fell under the regulation of the Investment Canada Act, which states that such takeovers must be a net benefit to Canada. The recently elected Harper government agreed to both sales with a list of conditions that have never been made public, although it is widely understood that both companies promised not to layoff any Canadian employees for 3 years.

Continue reading

‘All the world’s a stage’: Performance in the Classroom

Performance is an important theoretical concept in the history classroom.  It has been deployed in various contexts, from a social historian’s concern with the ‘public transcript’ of the theatre of the dominant classes, and its counter-theatre of resistance, to cultural and gender historians’ readings of ‘performativity,’ wherein the cultural fictions of collectively performed gender produce and reinforce prevailing notions of normalcy.  E.P. Thomspon and Judith Butler have influenced a number of historians with their respective conceptualizations of theatre and performance, and so have had a significant impact on the production of historical scholarship.  These ideas, inspiring as they are, can be heavy theoretical baggage to unpack in the undergraduate history classroom. Continue reading

Active History Announcements: Oct 3-9

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The following upcoming events may be of interest to our readers (click on ‘continue reading’ below for full descriptions):

1)  Call for Participants: Teaching History in Diverse Venues: Toronto, Nov. 4 – submission deadline Oct 4.

2) Thought Exchange (History Matters) – Oct 14

3) CFP: History 2.0: Active History Roundtable on new media

4) This week in the Active History blogosphere!

If you have an announcement that you would like included in this weekly dispatch, please e-mail info@activehistory.ca. Continue reading



The co-coordinators for the Active History/Histoire Engagée CHA Working Group are calling for papers for a proposed round table for the CHA Annual Meeting to be held in May of 2011 in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The Working Group helps coordinates the activities of members of Active History (for more, see www.activehistory.ca) who strive for a practice of history that emphasizes collegiality, builds community among active historians and other members of communities, and recognizes the public responsibilities of the historian.

Our proposed round table, will, we hope, trigger wider discussion about the current opportunities and challenges that new media provide historians working in a discipline that is undergoing significant change. Media forms such as blogs, online journals, personal web sites, podcasts and online conferencing abilities have, in many ways, democratized and diversified how historians engage with each other and the wider public. Continue reading

History, Heritage, and Municipal Elections

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It’s that time again.  Municipalities across Ontario are gearing up for the October 25th municipal elections.  Along with the lawn signs, debates in local community centres, door-to-door canvassing, and the usual issues of property taxes, jobs, garbage collection and pot-holes, the topic of municipal heritage preservation has entered the political landscape.

Under the Ontario Heritage Act municipalities can pass by-laws to formally designate properties of cultural heritage value or interest.  Formal designation of heritage properties is one way of publicly acknowledging a property’s heritage value to a community.  Properties can be designated individually or as part of a larger area or Heritage Conservation District.  The protection and preservation of a community’s built heritage is therefore primarily a municipal concern and varies widely from community to community.  In Ontario municipalities like Cambridge, Niagara Falls, and Toronto have adopted Heritage Master Plans to enhance their ability to protect the community’s heritage resources.  The City of Brantford, on the other hand, recently completed demolition of 41 buildings in its downtown, believed to have been the longest stretch of pre-confederation buildings left in Canada. Continue reading