Remembering Holocaust victims

Rachel Stalker, ‘Doah Staff Writer
April 10, 2013

Holocaust Remembrance (a)Every April, the Days of Remembrance commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. On Sunday, April 7, Shenandoah hosted its own Holocaust Remembrance Day, coinciding with the official beginning of observances  by state and local governments, military bases, workplaces, schools and faith communities across the country.

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “Congress established the Days of Remembrance as the nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust and created the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as a permanent living memorial to the victims. Holocaust remembrance week is April 7–14, 2013. The theme designated by the Museum for the 2013 observance is ‘Never Again: Heeding the Warning Signs.’”

Dr. Petra Schweitzer, as a scholar of Holocaust studies, organized a program and a name reading ceremony for the 2013 Days of Remembrance with Rev. Dr. Justin Allen, the dean of Spiritual Life; Rabbi Scott Sperling of the Beth El Congregation in Winchester; and Dr. Robert Ehrenreich, director of University Programs at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

This ceremony personalized the statistics, adding names to the devastating death toll of Nazi Germany during the Holocaust from 1933-1945. Sperling was the keynote speaker, and spoke in relation to S.U.’s theme this year, “Children of the Holocaust.” The theme was chosen because children were the most vulnerable people in the Holocaust and unwanted under the ideology of the Nazis.

In addition, Ehrenreich and Dr. Patricia Heberer, both scholars of Advanced Holocaust Studies at the Museum, presented their works. Ehrenreich’s slideshow was played throughout the ceremony, while Heberer, a historian specializing in the subject area of children in the Holocaust, presented an essay titled “The World of the Child during the Holocaust.”

Depending on the audience, the commemoration can take a variety of formats.

“This year’s annual ceremony is marked by an interactive program,” said Schweitzer. “It was amazing to see the students’ initiative… They wanted to induce a sense of responsibility with their actions.”

Several students from the Conservatory, as well as international student Claire Glover, selected individual musical pieces which were performed on Sunday night.

Students from the women’s studies course “Woman and the Holocaust,” under the leadership of Emily Howdyshell, read excerpts of children’s testimonies from the Holocaust. These voices emphasized  the extent of the suffering Jewish people went through at the hands of the Nazis.

Following the program, there was a name reading ceremony, an incredibly symbolic and meaningful act. In reading the names, victims who were never laid to rest in marked graves were honored.

“How can we possibly conceive of millions of lives lost during the Holocaust?” said Allen.

“The number is almost too large to grasp. Perhaps we can understand it better by reading the names one at a time. This Yom HaShoah service seeks to do exactly that — help us comprehend such a terrible act with the hopeful reading of names that will live on in perpetuity.”

This is an important week for history. The Holocaust was a devastating event not just in Europe, but all over the world.

It shows how one person’s ideas can change the lives of many. We must never forget those who suffered, died and lost loved ones during this tragic period that began 80 years ago.

Next year’s Day of Remembrance is scheduled for April 28, 2014.

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