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Holocaust Remembrance Focuses on '50 Years Later'

By Ifung Lu
Associate News Editor

Members of the MIT community observed Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, last Thursday, honoring the memories of the victims of the Holocaust with a memorial service, a remembrance exhibit, and a photographic montage.

The commemorative activities were organized by students of the Jewish religious group Hillel, said Hillel Director Miriam Rosenblum.

This year's theme, "50 Years Later - The Reality of the Holocaust," emphasized the importance today of the lessons learned in the Holocaust, according to a handout distributed by students at the Lobby 7 exhibit.

"Even though the events we're commemorating happened 50 years ago, it still is part of our lives and we must educate people to prevent such atrocities from happening ever again," Rosenblum said.

Over 60 people attended the memorial service held at the MIT Chapel. Karen V. Chenausky G, who organized the service, selected a program appropriate to this year's theme.

People need to remember the Holocaust now more than ever, Chenausky said. Holocaust survivors are getting older and passing away, taking their first-hand accounts with them. "Many [people] will never have a first person account," she said. As a result, most of the selections were not first person accounts, but rather well thought-out reflections on the Holocaust.

Dean of Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs Arthur C. Smith and Jason D. Hintersteiner '96 performed a short skit about a man describing the murders of a mother and child to a prosecutor. Rabbi Joshua Plaut led a service in memory of the 6 million Jews killed between 1933 and 1945.

The service was followed by a special lecture given by Raul Hilberg, professor emeritus at the University of Vermont, entitled "Auschwitz: The Reality and the Symbol."

Hilberg described the horrors of what happened at Auschwitz and what Allied Forces soldiers saw when they liberated the camp 50 years ago.

"We cannot simply remember, we must learn what there is to remember. We must pick up the pieces, the hundreds of pieces, the tens of thousands of pieces," Hilberg said at the lecture.

Sam D. Starobin '54, president of MIT Hillel Foundation, Inc., said "Professor Hilberg's response to [a question asked in the lecture] was such an outpouring of pain. He had to learn to live with that, but he has driven to make the world see the truth, look itself in the mirror, maybe with the hope of having seen it, it will not repeat it."

Judy Ellis Glickman presented a photography exhibit "Resistance and Rescue: Denmark and the Holocaust" at the opening reception at the Religious Activities Center. The photographs will be in the small dining room exhibit area in the Religious Activities Center until May 17.

Glickman, a freelance photographer, took the pictures on an organized trip to Germany. The 60-some photographs feature people, places, and modes of transportation in Denmark where Jews were saved during the Holocaust.

During World War II, "when the word came there was going to be a roundup of Jews, everyone from the kings to farmers, every Jew was hidden and then taken to Sweden," Glickman said.

"Her pictures bring to life the story of the Danes and serves as an inspiration to us all," said Mark Z. Wilen G.

Last year, Institute Professor Emeritus Victor F. Weisskopf spoke at the remembrance day service about "The Rescue of the Danish Jews." In his talk, Weisskopf said that the Danish rescue of the Jews was a "unique example of collective action."

The two displays in Lobby 7 both reminded passersby of the details of the Holocaust and emphasized the importance of remembering that part of history. In addition, Hillel members lit 12 candles and read aloud the names and ages of victims of 50 years ago.

The exhibit was organized by Deena Disraelly '96 and Julia Khodor '96. The lighting of 12 candles represented the 12 million people who were killed in concentration camps and mass extermination efforts during the Holocaust because of their race, religion, politics, or sexual preference, according to Khodor.

About 30 people helped Hillel members read aloud the names and ages of victims.

The name reading was a very emotional event, Khodor said. "There were times you were reading the names of entire families off the list. A few years ago, we got a list of names who were mostly children - 17, 15, 10, 2 - it's very hard to read them," she said.

"It's important once a year to reflect upon what's happened in the past and not to let the memory die, even if it's 50 years later," said Hillel President Jonathan Katz '96. "Hopefully people today will be able to learn from the mistakes of the past."

Deena Disraelly contributed to the reporting of this story.