Campus News News

Remembering the Holocaust

Matt Vaghi/The Student

Matt Vaghi

Graphic Designer

The Holocaust was a dark, haunting period in history that exemplified the frightening power of dehumanization and obsessive control. Few forget just how destructive the Holocaust was as the genocide of over six million Jewish civilians, along with millions of other groups of innocent victims, was the result of the tyrant Nazi regime led by Adolf Hitler during World War II. Since then, there have been countless memorials, accounts, films, documentaries and exhibits remembering the lives that were lost and portraying human interest stories of heroism and courage amongst the brooding, murderous action of the Nazi party.

Springfield College has participated in such activities, as they have already begun their annual Holocaust Commemoration presented by the Holocaust Committee. Various events have been planned to commemorate the lost lives of the Holocaust as well as offer firsthand accounts of the period.

The commemoration began March 21 with a screening of the film “Carrying the Light”, a story about a British Rabbi and his dog traveling on foot in Germany to his grandfather’s synagogue that was destroyed during the Holocaust to find the Eternal Light and bring it back to his synagogue in London.

Today (March 29), there will be a number of other events occurring on campus. Between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., there will be a reading of the names of Jewish victims of the Holocaust between the Richard B. Flynn Campus Union and the Administration Building.

The National Holocaust Museum annually provides Springfield College with a list of Jews lost in the Nazi concentration camps. Although the reading takes place all day, it merely scratches the surface of just how many lives were actually lost.

“When you think of how many people died in the Holocaust it would take you years of nonstop reading to recite them all,” said David McMahon, the director of  Campus Ministry & Spiritual Life and a member of the Holocaust Committee. “We only get a small fraction every year, but over the course of many years doing this, we read more and more names and remember more and more people.”

Students and faculty volunteer to participate in reading the names, and it is an extremely solemn, powerful portion of the day. Senior Jenna Lebowitz is a student on campus who recognizes how imperative it is to recognize the Holocaust.

“If we do not respect the mistakes humans have made throughout history, we are only bound to repeat the same problem again in the future,” said Lebowitz. “That is a very scary thought.”

The name reading will pause at noon as activity will shift over to Marsh Memorial where Julius Menn, a child survivor of the Holocaust, will speak about how he and his family accidentally survived the ordeal. Although Menn was only a young child during this time, his firsthand account of the Holocaust and how his family was essentially spared will be poignant.

After Menn speaks, the names will continue to be read until 6 p.m. Shortly afterwards, the Holocaust Commemoration will be capped off with an art exhibit on the second floor in the Campus Union Rotunda followed by a reception.

In past years, there have been various projects that were done by faculty and students that had a connection with the Holocaust. The Holocaust Commemoration week has recently begun to incorporate these kinds of exhibits.

“The event has slowly grown, and we’ve tried to make it more than just a film or a speaker,” said McMahon. “Each year, we try to add an element. The art exhibit is a new element this year.”

This year, Dr. Simone Alter-Muri, a professor in the Visual and Performing Arts Department, has constructed a modern-day exhibit entitled Codes on Canvas that portrays how Holocaust victims were dehumanized and labeled as objects and numbers. Alter-Muri was inspired by a research trip two summers ago to Auschwitz, Poland, where she conceptualized the idea of barcodes representing the dehumanization of individuals during the Holocaust and how the small symbols that we may not acknowledge can have a significant effect upon society.

“I was torn [in Auschwitz] by lines such as the fences and the prisoner uniforms,” said Alter-Muri. “It reminded me of barcodes because barcodes are something all around us that we don’t really pay attention to. There were little things that happened in the Holocaust that also happen in other Holocausts; little signs that racial prejudice is happening, like in Sudan and all kinds of areas, that people don’t pay attention to until it’s too late.”

Alter-Muri also wanted the exhibit not only to remind students of the Holocaust, but also encourage more dialogues regarding other topics and current events that may be swept under the rug and not particularly talked about.

“I really want my work to have discussions by students,” said Alter-Muri. “Although students should not forget about the Holocaust, they should also focus on what we are not paying attention to.”

The Holocaust Commemoration will once again be an emotionally moving event for students and faculty. However, although the Holocaust is a solemn subject for students, David McMahon believes that there is much more to be aware of aside from its tragedy and darkness.

“It’s important that people see this as a really human event,” said McMahon. “At its core, it’s horrible and the horror can’t be put into words. But on the other hand, there are great stories of heroism of people who’ve protected Jews and people who’ve been able to rebuild their families. It is on one hand the terrible things that happened, but it’s also about the strength and determination to overcome that. I think that’s what students are most surprised about. It’s about seeing the light that can come out of such darkness.”

Matt Vaghi may be reached at

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