Memorial honors Holocaust victims

by Amy Olson

Lucy Smith hid in coal cellars and attics in the ghettos of Poland as she tried to escape the wrath of the Nazis’ roundup and the extermination of Europe’s Jews. She was nine years old.
But she hid much more than her body. With falsified documents, Smith adopted the life of a Christian, hiding her identity from everyone she knew and faking details of her everyday life — including the fact that most of her family had been murdered.
It took years for her to tell the story of her survival, but on Tuesday afternoon’s Hillel memorial service for the 6 million Jews who died during the Holocaust, Smith’s words flowed with resolute determination. Her message was clear: The Holocaust must not happen again.
After the war, Holocaust survivors adopted the mantra “never again.” But Smith said the horrors of the Holocaust were being repeated as she spoke of the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and named other acts of genocide committed in recent years in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda and Cambodia.
Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, is held annually in conjunction with the anniversary of the uprising where Nazis burned a Warsaw ghetto neighborhood, said Hillel Rabbi Sharon Stiefel. The international event comes one week before the day marking Israel’s independence celebration.
More than 40 people gathered for the service. Some wore dress clothes while others arrived in casual attire; some wore yarmulkes while others wore baseball caps or left their hair uncovered.
Members of the Jewish student center organized the annual event to remind people of the horrible acts of genocide during the Holocaust since history repeats itself, said Jay Siegel, event organizer.
All people are responsible for preventing it from happening again, added Siegel, a junior studying history.
“From 1933 to 1945, some 29 million people died as a result of Nazi rule,” said Jacob Fine, a junior in the College of Liberal Arts. “Out of this enormous number slaughtered, 6 million were Jews — murdered because they were Jews.”
Fine began counting off numbers, saying that even if he recited 6 million numerals it would take “from now until July” to complete the task — without including the victims’ names.
During the Holocaust, the world’s population of Jewish people was reduced by one-third.
After the concentration camps were liberated and World War II ended in Europe, Smith said she and some of the other survivors returned to their former homes in Krakow, Poland. As they viewed the remains of the burned out ghettos, their stories began to unravel in fragments.
“Mostly, we tried to get the remnants of our lives back,” Smith said.
As the worldwide shock over the atrocities gave way to horror, Smith said scholars began to analyze the Holocaust as an idea, not just an event. It became the measuring stick by which all other iniquities were measured and condemned, she added.
That practice was hard for survivors to bear, but Smith stressed the need to use new methods like the Internet to combat hate by teaching peace, tolerance and freedom.
“Both love and hate begin in the human heart,” Smith said.
The day also honors the members of the resistance movement and the heroism of those who worked to prevent the genocide, Fine said.
Remembrance day services were also held at a 7 p.m. service at Beth Jacob Congregation in Mendota Heights, Minn.