Hillel students joined the global Jewish community last week in honoring those who perished during the Holocaust, the survivors who courageously rebuilt their lives and implore the world to say "Never again," and the men and woman who risked their own lives to save those in peril. Campuses marked Yom Ha'Shoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) with testimonies from survivors, name readings and other educational programs.
Jewish students at the University of California, Irvine erected a memorial to Holocaust victims that featured biographies of victims, facts about non-Jews who were also persecuted and a display of gas showers that were similar to those used in the concentration camps. Organizers moved the exhibit to a prominent campus location from a nearby park so more people would have the opportunity to see it.
"Students at UCI are particularly indifferent to many of the events on campus. I feel that the Holocaust memorial is an especially important tribute to the victims of history," said Michael Marriot, the Holocaust chair at Hillel of UCI.
Hillels on many campuses, such as the University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign, sponsored name readings, where students take turns reading the names of victims, often throughout the night. University of Oregon students took the program a step further, reading for 24 straight hours in the university's amphitheater.
"People were actually out here all night. It's amazing," Jodi Roth, a member of Oregon Hillel who helped organize the reading, told the Oregon Daily Emerald. "You kind of zone out and think about all of the people who died."
Jewish students at Carnegie Mellon University chose to recall the names of children during its name reading, which heightened the emotional impact on participants. CMU Hillel also invited a local Holocaust survivor to share his memories with the students. Fritz Ottenheimer, a German Jew who fled his country at the beginning of the war and later returned as a U.S. soldier, recounted the horror of entering concentration camps after the war's end.
"A pile of ashes is very impersonal. It's sort of like a statistic," he said. "We hear the statistics of the Holocaust...and we tend not to think of the numbers in individual terms until we hear the fate of individual persons."
Survivor Robert Frisch joined students at the University of Minnesota for their annual memorial service, sponsored by University of Minnesota Hillel. Student organizers hoped the ceremony was meaningful to students of all backgrounds.
"There aren't that many survivors left today," Sondel said in the Minnesota Daily. "It's now our responsibility to make sure our peers remember it and the stories and victims are not forgotten."
Texas Hillel's White Rose Society, named for a non-violent student resistance organization in the 1930s that opposed Nazi oppression, distributed 5,000 white roses throughout campus last Monday to symbolize the 5,000 people who died at Auschwitz each day during the peak of the Holocaust. Part of the White Rose Society's ongoing Genocide Awareness Campaign, participants also hoped the roses would call attention to the current genocide occurring in the Darfur region of Sudan.
"At the end of the Second World War, we Jews said of the Holocaust, 'Never again,'" said University of Texas junior Rachel Cohen said in the Daily Texan. "But it is happening again, and we hope that people will take interest in it and try to stop it everywhere else it happens."