A windy evening didn’t prevent members of the Rowan University community from keeping candles burning in remembrance of the victims of the Holocaust.
On Thursday night, Rowan students, faculty and community members gathered at Robinson Green for a peaceful walk and ceremony honoring the victims of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution.
The memorial ceremony coincided with International Holocaust and Remembrance Day, observed Jan. 27 every year. The day is in memoriam of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, which was the largest death camp used by the Germans during World War II.
Some lit candles, others used the light of their phone to counteract the gusty winds making candle-lighting difficult. Jody Manning of the Rowan Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies led the walk from the Robinson Green to the outside of the Student Center.
“What’s important is remembrance of this historical event, and also engagement with students,” Manning explained prior to the ceremony.
The air was filled with emotion as everyone gathered in a circle outside the Student Center with candles and phones held at their chests.
The Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity brothers started by reading stories written by or about victims of the Holocaust. This Jewish fraternity co-sponsored the event with the Rowan Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Rowan Hillel and Chabad at Rowan.
Matthew Goldenberg, a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi, shared his personal experience of visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau.
“Imagine you’re on a tour bus and you’re rolling up the street, and all the sudden you appear at this huge building that looks like it has eyes and a mouth,” Goldenberg said to the crowd.
“I want to be a witness to the witnesses…and keep the stories going.” – sara yocum
Goldenberg contrasted his visit with the experiences of victims less than a century ago.
“Some people were one of hundreds in a small cattle car and were rushed there and thrown out, while some died and some didn’t. And you’re just relaxing, listening to your iPod as you roll up to just check out the place,” he said. “You hear about it, you might read about it, see videos of it, but when you’re there, you understand how big it was.”
Not everyone who attended the event had personal ties to the Holocaust. Some had come to show their support in preventing the genocide from being forgotten. Sara Yocum, president of the Student Association of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, grew interested by first attending a book club.
“I have a love for history and I have a love for continuing generations understanding what happened in the past, and how important it is to continue the stories,” Yocum explained after the event. “I want to be a witness to the witnesses now at this point, and keep the stories going.”
After the brothers of Alpha Epsilon Pi read their passages, members of the crowd were free to speak of their experiences and thoughts. Everyone stood silently in the circle, listening to the passionate words of fellow community members that led some to tears.
“We will always come back up strong,” one crowd member proclaimed.
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