Students were given the chance to commemorate and learn more about the victims of the Holocaust last week as part of Hillel at Baruch College’s series of Holocaust Memorial Week events.
Hillel commenced the series on Monday, April 24, with “20 Minute Monday: Holocaust Memorial in Israel,” which focused on how Israel commemorates the Holocaust each year. Attendees learned about Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, which ended on the evening of April 24.
Hillel began by lighting six candles in remembrance of the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. This was followed by an explanation of the Yom HaShoah air raid siren, which sounds throughout Israel at 10 a.m. on Yom HaShoah.
During the siren, people are expected to stand in silent reflection of the atrocities of the Holocaust. The siren was played from a YouTube video during the event and attendees were asked to stand in silence for one minute.
Afterward, Hillel detailed the history of Yom HaShoah, as well as the 1961 Eichmann trial.
Yom HaShoah was originally going to fall on April 19, the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, however the date was moved because it was thought that it would conflict with the Jewish holiday of Passover.
“My grandmother was a Holocaust survivor and I remember the first time I asked her about the subject I didn’t come to understand what the Holocaust really meant,” said Shoval Tshuva, a communication studies major and speaker at the event.
“The people who have been through this are disappearing and they can’t testify anymore. It’s up to us to remember what happened there and we have to remember not to let it happen to any other nation just because someone decides, based on race, that this person needs to die.”
This event was followed on Tuesday by an Interfaith Memorial where attendees learned about LGBT and Romani narratives of the Holocaust. Approximately 2,000 Roma people perished in the Holocaust, as well as thousands of homosexuals.
The event, which was cosponsored by the Gender, Love and Sexuality Spectrum, also featured a tekes, or ceremony, in which prayers from multiple faiths were recited in honor of those who perished in the Holocaust.
Hillel continued on with Wednesday’s “How Do We Remember” tabling event. The tabling, which took place in the second floor lobby of the Newman Vertical Campus, looked to answer the question, “Why do we remember?” while “promoting individual narratives to underscore the tragedy of the Holocaust,” according to Hillel’s Facebook page.
Hillel concluded the series on Thursday with a talk and presentation by Sami Steigmann, a survivor of the Holocaust. Steigmann was born to Orthodox Jewish parents in what is now known as Ukraine in 1939. In 1941, Steigmann and his parents were deported to a Nazi labor camp in Mogilev Podolski, also located in what is now known as Ukraine.
As a toddler at the camp, Steigmann was never separated from his parents, however he was subjected to medical experiments that have left him with lasting chronic pain. Conditions were so dire for Steigmann’s family that Steigmann’s father, Nathan, was forced to trade his winter coat in exchange for bread.
While in the camp, Steigmann stated that he nearly starved to death due to a daily food regimen of two slices of bread and salty soup. A German woman who regularly bought food to the Nazis noticed Steigmann’s condition and took pity on him, bringing him milk that would eventually lead to his recovery.
Steigmann and his parents were some of the only members of his family to survive the Holocaust. His aunt and uncle were killed in Auschwitz.
“There is no reason that somebody lived or somebody died. It depended on the country you were in, what type of camp you were in. It depended also on how strong you were, how old you were, and if you were willing to take chances,” said Steigmann. “My luck was that I was never separated from my parents.”
After the presentation, Steigmann took questions from the audience.