Students for Holocaust Awareness, Remembrane and Education (SHARE) hosted a three-day event at Hillel starting March 23. The event titled “Unpacking History & Memory: Holocaust Commemoration in the 21st Century” included academic presentations about the Holocaust and opportunities for students to converse with Holocaust survivors.
The event began with a presentation from Ruth Bergman, director of education at the Zekelman Holocaust Center in Farmington Hills, about anti-Semitism, propoganda and media literacy. Bergman began her presentation by explaining the impact of anti-Semitism.
“Anti-Semitism encompasses hatred of Jews on the basis of their existance as human beings, not as members of a distinct group,” Bergman said. “Anti-Semites attempt to portray Jews as too strong and the cause of all social problems.”
Bergman then spoke about the importance of obtaining information about the Holocaust from reliable and accurate sources. She provided different strategies to properly identify factual versus false information.
“Attribution is the first thing you should look for,” Bergman said. “Then look for unusual URLs, dissect the layout, grammatical mistakes, and ridiculous claims. (Then you can) dig deeper, find out who wrote the article, cross-check the data and find out if the organization who wrote the article is legitimate.”
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Bergman expanded on the importance of media literacy when gathering information on the Holocaust and the history of anti-Semitism.
“Unfortunately, Holocaust imagery and the anti-Semitism that came before, during and after is still very prevalent, and now we’re seeing it all over social media,” Bergman said. “We continue to teach about the Holocaust because (anti-Semites) use all of these tricks, they use propaganda. And so when we see this happening, we need to stop it, and we can stop it before it escalates, but you can’t stop it if you don’t recognize it.”
After the presentation, the crowd of more than 100 students watched a 2019 testimony from Holocaust survivor Sophie Klisman and then conversed with her on a zoom conference. Klisman said she was born in Poland in 1929, and after living in a ghetto for multiple years in the 1940s, she was taken to several concentration and death camps before she was liberated in 1945. Shortly after in 1949, Klisman said she moved to Michigan and married another Holocaust survivor.
Klisman spoke to the audience about how she and her husband educated their children about the Holocaust when their children were young.
“We never wanted our children to the feel pain and sorrow we went through, so we never told them (about our experience in the Holocaust),” Klisman said. “When they were getting a little older… little by little, we told them. But my son just told me the other day, he said his first knowledge about the Holocaust cause was seeing the movie Schindler’s List. And eventually, as they got older, they knew more and more about the Holocaust.”
Klisman also told the audience about a time when she went back to visit Auschwitz, where she and her sister were once held by the Nazi regime.
“I went back to Auschwitz twice. The first time was with my family,” Klisman said. “The second time I was very fortunate and honored to be chosen on a mission to go to Israel because I was a Holocaust survivor. So I also had to go to Poland, (to see) Auschwitz, but that time, we went with 45 Israeli soldiers with the Israeli flag, (and a) Torah, and this time, we defeated Hitler and his regime.”
The second day of the event, entitled “Once Tasted, Always Remembered,” included a virtual cooking class and story telling session. Becca Gallick-Mitchell, U-M alumni and creator of InstaGrandmas Kitchen, hosted a cooking experience where she demonstrated her grandma’s noodle kugel recipe while sharing her grandmother’s story of survival.
The three day event concluded with a faculty panel entitled “How We Tell the Stories of the Holocaust,” featuring U-M faculty members Jamie Moshin, Communication and Media lecturer; Henry Greenspan, Social Theory and Practice lecturer; and Deborah Dash Moore, History professor. Each faculty member was asked about their experiences and perspectives on teaching the Holocaust, and how to continue education efforts with a dwindling number of living survivors.
Moshin, who teaches Comm 306: Representing American Jewishness, said that stories are key to educating future generations on the Holocaust.
“We’re trying to keep memories alive through representation,” Moshin said. “We live on through stories. The power of memory is in transmitting culture to future generations through memories and experiences.”
Greenspan, co-author of Reflections: Auschwitz, Memory, and a Life Recreated, said he has spent much of his career interviewing and writing about Holocaust suvirvors. He stated the importance of encouraging students to interact with survivor testimonies in order to humanize and contextualize their experiences.
“As soon as survivors become icons of the history they endured, they become distant alien beings,” Greenspan said. “We need to meet people where they are and learn together. We need to hear how survivors have gotten up every morning and continued to live.”
LSA senior Ellery Weiner, SHARE co-president, told The Daily after the event that she was excited about the turnout and hopes the event left a positive impact on its attendees.
“I feel really proud that we were able to get such a big audience to learn about such an important historical event and to hear the survivor’s stories,” Weiner said.
LSA sophomore Elisha Cooper also said she enjoyed the panel, and that it was especially meaningful to hear from professionals who have dedicated their lives to Holocaust education.
“The professor panel was a cool blend of historical and current takes on the Holocaust and anti-Semitism,” Cooper said. “It made me think a lot about our future role in preserving the memory of this historical event.”