In honor of Yom HaShoah, the National Holocaust Remembrance Day, students gathered on the Diag on Wednesday and Thursday for an annual 24-hour reading of the names of those killed during the Holocaust.
Members of Hillel’s Conference on the Holocaust invited passersby to read quotes from several Holocaust survivors while student volunteers read a number of victims’ names every hour.
The event also featured a special ceremony Wednesday evening, in which student volunteers sang traditional Hebrew songs and prayers. Students who attended the ceremony also lit six candles in honor of the 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust.
Two COTH volunteers additionally shared stories of family members who survived the Holocaust. LSA freshman Shira Kitay, COTH’s assistant survivor relations chair, shared her grandfather’s story, involving how he and his family went into hiding after the Nazi’s invaded Poland.
“My grandfather barely evaded death in so many instances,” she said during the ceremony. “His story is one of strength, perseverance and a lot of luck.”
In an interview following the event, Kitay said talking about the Holocaust is important in keeping the testimonies of survivors alive.
“The Holocaust is the biggest failure of humanity,” she said. “It’s important to carry on these stories, especially since we are the last generation that will hear them from survivors.”
Kitay also said talking about her grandfather’s struggle is a way for her to honor his determination to survive.
“He suffered through all that so we could have a family,” she said. “I’m here today because my grandfather persevered. I would not be alive if he had given up.”
In the closing ceremony of the vigil Thursday afternoon, Holocaust survivor Irene Butter spoke to students about ongoing Holocaust Remembrance projects in Europe.
Butter, who is also a professor emerita in the School of Public Health, was 12 years old when she was taken from her home in the Netherlands and sent to work in two concentration camps. She was 14 when she was liberated.
During the ceremony, Butter stressed the importance of honoring the lives lost during the Holocaust.
“When these people were murdered, they were not given a proper burial, and their names and identities were lost,” she said. “We depend on you, the future generations, to tell these stories and read the names.”
In an interview after the ceremony, Butter said she returns to the University to share her story and teach the younger generations lessons from the Holocaust.
“It’s not just important that they learned what happened, but it’s important that they also learn the lessons,” she said. “You can’t be a bystander, because we have to be vigilant about stopping and preventing discrimination and oppression any types of inequality because people are all the same.”