Among the many students who congregated on the Diag yesterday – to distribute election fliers, to advertise for upcoming fine arts performances or to simply enjoy the first genuine spring weather – was a small group of University students and community members who quietly read names of Holocaust victims.
The 24-hour vigil, which began yesterday at noon and ends today with a memorial service at noon, is a part of the 23rd Annual Conference on the Holocaust.
Students and community members were invited to read the names, which came from Yad Vashem, a Holocaust memorial museum in Israel.
“Twenty-four hours is hardly enough to read all the names” of the 6 million victims, said Jacqueline Wulwick, an LSA sophomore and co-chair of the conference, whose grandparents are Holocaust survivors. She added that one of the main goals of the vigil is to help people of all backgrounds and ages be aware of the Holocaust.
“We are trying to show that the Holocaust was not just about the Germans and the Jews. There were other peoples persecuted besides the Jews and other persecutors besides the Germans. Some assisted the Nazis directly while some just turned the other direction and ignored the victims’ plea for help,” Stephanie Balentine, program associate at Hillel, said.
“Judaism is a big part of my life and the Holocaust has been in my mind for a long time. It’s a big part of my identity that it’s almost a sacred observance to come out and to read the names and to bear witness to those who perished,” said LSA sophomore Rachel Rose, who stopped by on her way to lunch to read a couple of pages of names.
Different student groups, such as Circle K, Project Serve and LSA Student Government, volunteered to participate in the vigil.
“We like to get active in many aspects of campus life … and it’s important to remember those who perished from the Holocaust,” LSA representative David Mats, a freshman, said.
University students weren’t the only ones who participated in the reading.
Jonathan Hill, a Detroit resident who is currently taking care of a friend in the University Hospital, said he still remembers the same vigil from 10 years ago when he lived in Ann Arbor.
“I am just a carpenter, uneducated. I am a white atheist,” said Hill, who added that honoring Holocaust victims isn’t just for Jewish descendants.
“Today’s global politics is very complex” as seen in the current Israel-Palestinian and Afghanistan conflicts, Hill added. “Remembering the Holocaust victims is my one way of (participating) in this global politics.”
The conference, which is sponsored by Hillel, will continue until Tuesday, March 19.