Transforming Leadership through Human Rights Initiatives

Featured initiative

The graphic novel But I Live: Three Stories of Child Survivors of the Holocaust has won two PROSE awards: for Biography/Autobiography and for Nonfiction 
Graphic Novels. 

Featured initiative

The logo for the Partnership Development Grant ‘Narrative Art & Visual Storytelling In Holocaust & Human Rights Education’. Logo designed by Miriam Libicki.

Learn more about this featured initiative

About Transforming Leadership

In a new digital reality where fake news threatens democracies around the world, current and future leaders need new forms of human rights education to contextualize traumatic histories and build a more equitable future. Transforming Leadership through Human Rights Education is a joint initiative between the University of Victoria and the United Nations to develop innovative training for scholars, policymakers, organizational leaders, and K-12 educators.

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Theory of change for Transforming Leadership through Human Rights Education. (Design credit: Hikma Strategies, 2022)

Confronting History through Experiential Learning

Since its launch in 2011, the I-witness Field School has offered a roadmap for experiential learning across campus and globally. Students explore the ways in which the Holocaust is memorialized in Central Europe and build an understanding of how the lessons of the Holocaust are relevant in today’s world. As co-designer of this program, Dr. Helga Thorson has brought participants to former concentration camps, Jewish museums and cemeteries, large-scale and small-scale memorials, and grass-roots projects created by citizen initiatives. Learning spaces like these are rare, and ours has been enriched and sustained by the engagement of knowledge holders, the development of strong partnerships, and the design of responsive, thoughtful programming.

two students looking in the glass of a memorial

The Memorial to the Persecuted Homosexuals under National Socialism in Berlin. (Photo credit: Helga Thorson, 2014)

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Engaging with Survivors across Contexts

We will work with Indigenous scholars, governments, and community partners to foster dialogues with survivors of both the Holocaust and Indian Residential Schools. Through Listening Circles and recruitment of Indigenous faculty and participants for the I-witness Field School, we will drive more expansive learning about civic responsibility and reconciliation. This new programming will build on the SSHRC Partnership Grant awarded to Dr. Charlotte Schallié in June 2022, “Visual Storytelling and Graphic Art in Genocide and Human Rights Education” ($2.5M CAD). The project brings together 52 scholars across 16 countries, who will partner with 11 survivors, 13 artists, and 34 museums, schools, human rights groups, and other organizations to advance arts-based practices for survivor testimony collection across five contexts of genocide and mass atrocity.  

An image of two people in discussion across from each other at a table.

David Schaffer and Miriam Libicki meeting at Emily Carr University in Vancouver, January 2020. (Photo credit: Charlotte Schallié)

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Connecting Local and Global Educators

In Summer 2024, we will bring high school teachers and students to campus for a Human Rights Education Summer Institute. The Institute will be stewarded by award-winning instructor Dr. Kristin Semmens, who has spoken to students at 6 different middle schools and 3 different high schools in Victoria, as well as other local educational and religious organizations. Future stages of this initiative will amplify access to our lessons and resources through UN-accredited credentials for students, scholars, policymakers, organizational leaders, and K-12 educators. Through the co-creation of this work, we will advance policy recommendations and curricula for implementation within Canada and globally.

The imageGroup of field school students in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

Field students in front of The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. (Photo credit: Holly Perrier, 2016)

Upcoming events


There are no upcoming events at this time.  Please check back again soon!

January 26 2023- Holocaust Remembrance: Trauma and Afterlight

On the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we gathered together on UVic’s campus to honour the memory of the six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust as well as the millions of other victims of National Socialism, to pay tribute to those who survived, and to get a better understanding of the trauma and afterlight that continues to this day. Our discussion focused on two recent memoirs: Marsha Lederman’s Kiss the Red Stairs: The Holocaust Once Removed (Penguin Random House, 2022) and Isa Milman’s Afterlight: In Search of Poetry, History, and Home (Heritage House, 2021). The conversation between Marsha Lederman and Isa Milman was moderated by Lynne van Luven, professor emerita of UVic’s Writing Department. The event was sponsored by the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies and the University of Victoria Libraries. A special thank you to UVic’s President, Dr. Kevin Hall, for joining us and getting the evening off to a good start.

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February 12 2023 - A Powerful Collection of Graphic Novellas


BUT I LIVE – Three Stories of Child Survivors of the Holocaust

Sun Feb 12, 12:00pm  
WINNER – 2022 Canadian Jewish Literary Award
Graphic novelists | telling survivors’ stories

MIRIAM LIBICKI | David Schaffer (Vancouver): A Kind of Resistance
GILAD SELIKTAR | Nico & Rolf Kamp (Amsterdam): Thirteen Secrets
BARBARA YELIN | Emmie Arbel (Kiryat Tiv’on, Israel): But I Live

Touted as “the most powerful collection of non-fiction graphic novellas of the Holocaust since Art Spiegelman’s Maus” – But I Live is an intimate co-creation of three graphic novelists and four Holocaust survivors.

David Schaffer and his family survived in Romania due to their refusal to obey Nazi collaborators. In the Netherlands, brothers Nico and Rolf Kamp were hidden by the Dutch resistance in 13 different places. Through the story of Emmie Arbel, a child survivor of the Ravensbrück and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps, we see the lifelong trauma inflicted by the Holocaust. To complement these hauntingly beautiful visual depictions, the book includes historical essays, a postscript from the artists, and words of the survivors.

The graphic novelists and the editor will focus on the very unusual artistic process.

CHARLOTTE SCHALLIÉ is a professor and chair in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies at the University of Victoria.

MIRIAM LIBICKI (Vancouver) holds an MFA in Creative Writing and is an award-winning graphic novelist. She is the author of Towards a Hot Jew (2017 Vine Award for Canadian Jewish Literature) and many nonfiction comics.

BARBARA YELIN (Munich) studied illustration at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences and has worked as a comics artist for newspapers and international anthologies. She published the award-winning graphic novel Irmina.

GILAD SELIKTAR (Israel) is an acclaimed graphic novelist and children’s book illustrator whose works are published in Israel and throughout the world.

Event website

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March 20 2023- Book Talk: But I Live

Book talk

An intimate co-creation of three graphic novelists and four Holocaust survivors, But I Live consists of three illustrated stories based on the experiences of each survivor during and after the Holocaust.” - University of Toronto Press

Join us on March 20th at 6pm for a book talk with Charlotte Schallié, editor of But I Live, and Eva Kuper, MHM Board Member and Holocaust survivor. This powerful conversation about loss, hiding, and resilience will explore how Holocaust survivor testimonies are passed on to new generations and the role of graphic novels in facilitating that transmission.

The event will be taking place at The Goethe-Institut Montreal (1626 Boul. Saint-Laurent Bureau 100, Montréal, QC H2X 2T1) on March 20th at 6pm. Books will be available for purchase at the event through Librairie Paragraphe Bookstore. The talk will be followed by a reception.

This event is being hosted in partnership with The German Consulate in Montreal, The Goethe-Institut Montreal, and The Jewish Public Library.

Free reservations are required and there are limited spaces available.

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March 23 2023 - Book Launch & Public Lecture

Book Launch & Lecture: Defying Hitler: Resistance by the Persecuted (in-person) with Dr. Kristin Semmens

Location: UVic, David Strong Building Room C103

Join multiple teaching award winner Dr. Kristin Semmens for a public talk and the launch of her new book, Under the Swastika in Nazi Germany, which students helped to shape.

Books will be available for purchase at the event. Stay for light refreshments to celebrate!

Advance praise for Under the Swastika in Nazi Germany:

"Wide-ranging, clearly written, well structured and conceptually innovative, Kristin Semmens' survey of life and death in Nazi Germany is a masterpiece of compression, comprehensive in its coverage and taking in the most recent research. I can think of no better introduction to the subject." Sir Richard J Evans, Regius Professor Emeritus of History, University of Cambridge, UK

"Kristin Semmens deepens our understanding of the remarkably varied German responses to Nazi violence and expansionism." Shelley Baranowski, Distinguished Professor of History Emerita, University of Akron, USA

Event registration page

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May 03 2023- Café Historique

“I won’t go along with this”: Resistance by the Persecuted in Nazi Germany with Dr. Kristin Semmens

Although it used terror to ensure consent and complicity, the Third Reich (1933-1945) was still a broadly popular regime, at least among those Germans who were welcomed inside Adolf Hitler’s vision of a racially pure, socially normative and politically reliable ‘national community’. By contrast, Germans forced to become outsiders – due to their beliefs, behaviour or indeed their very being – suffered discrimination, dispossession, violence and, ultimately, murder. Yet, at every stage, they also resisted persecution. Taking a uniquely broad definition of what qualifies as resistance, in recognition of how narrow the horizon of possibilities was for the Nazis’ most hated targets, Semmens outlines a variety of forms of opposition. These include actions that attempted to limit the oppressors’ power by thwarting the Nazis’ policies and intentions, as well as strategies to reduce suffering and make survival possible.

Order Kristin Semmens’ new book, Under the Swastika in Nazi Germany (Bloomsbury, 2023), from the UVic bookstore in advance at this link and pick up your copy at the event (by mentioning “pick up at the event” in the comment section):

UVic Café Historique 2022-23 Season: And Now for Something Completely Different!

The 2022-23 season of Café Historique seeks to open your eyes to new things, taking familiar topics and showing you some of the fascinating new avenues of inquiry our researchers are pursuing. Join UVic History professors (and one special guest!) as they invite you on their journeys into the archives and along on their academic sleuthing investigations to bring these fascinating histories to light.

We're thrilled that Hermann's is alive and well and welcoming us back for another season. This year, doors will open at 6 and talks will start at 7. In order to meet rising costs, we will be charging a ticket price of $5 per person at the door. Thank-you so much for your understanding!

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