Holocaust survivor 'wish' fulfilled to visit Ottawa Holocaust Monument and young woman who made it happen
Published Tuesday, November 7, 2017 4:19PM EST Last Updated Wednesday, November 8, 2017 10:29AM EST
It was an emotional day for a 92-year-old survivor of the Holocaust. Steven Hopman from Montreal has terminal cancer. His last wish was to visit the new Holocaust Monument in Ottawa and more specifically, to meet the young woman who brought it to life.
Hopman survived the labor camps and deaths camps and the loss of his entire family at the hands of the Nazis. At 92, it is cancer that will finally end his life. But not before seeing the Holocaust Monument in Ottawa and meeting the one young woman who made it happen.
“What does it say on the wall?” asks Laura Grosman, as she pushes Hopman forward in a wheelchair. Grosman is the woman who fought to get the National Holocaust Monument built. She was an 18-year-old University of Ottawa student, learning about the Holocaust and discovering that Ottawa was among the few countries in the world that did not have a national monument.
“You’re a superstar,” Hopman jokes to Grosman. “No, you’re a superstar,” she jokes back.
Hopman was just 14 when the war started. His father died within the first week of the war and the rest of his family soon after.
“My mother, my sister perished in 1942 in October,” he says, “They were sent away to Treblinka
Hopman was sent to several camps but ended up in Bergen-Belsen.
Being at this Holocaust monument in Ottawa elicited some powerful memories, of seeing crows flying freely over the camp walls.
“You look up and see a crow and say, why can't I be a crow and fly away?” he says, as he holds back the tears.
Overwhelmed at this point, Hopman asks to be alone for a minute.
And his guide and hero Laura Grosman takes over, explaining why she fought to make this Holocaust Monument in Ottawa a reality.
“My grandfather was a holocaust survivor, “she says, “Every time I come here, I see it through his eyes, the eyes of my grandfather and the survivors I know. It's incredible to see our country acknowledging what so many of our citizens went through.”
Grosman, who is now 29 helped lobby Parliament to build the $8 million dollar structure. Half was raised through donations and the other half through federal funds. Former Conservative MP Tim Uppal pushed the idea through Parliament in the way of a private member’s bill.
“It really has become tangible way to teach about Holocaust,” Uppal explains, “that we as Canadians learn from the Holocaust that these dangers still exist today.”
There's a lesson, too, in what one person can accomplish with the right team behind them.