Dr. Renate Justin and others to speak during CSU Holocaust Awareness Week

Outside the Lory Student Center, a field of flags — each representing 5,000 victims of the Holocaust — will be displayed until March 8.

Parker Meneley, a sophomore microbiology major, looks in reflection at the "Field of Flags" Holocaust Memorial in the Lory Student Center Plaza on Monday afternoon. The memorial is in honor of Holocaust awareness week.
Parker Meneley, a sophomore microbiology major, looks in reflection at the “Field of Flags” Holocaust Memorial in the Lory Student Center Plaza on Monday afternoon. The memorial is in honor of Holocaust awareness week.

The 17th Annual Holocaust Awareness Week, with a theme of “Never Again,” is sponsored by Students for Holocaust Awareness, along with Hillel, Chabad, STAND, Jewish Student Life and Colorado Coalition for Genocide Awareness in Action.

Monday kicked off the events for this week with a three-day long reading of a Litany of Martyrs, during which the names of the documented victims of the Holocaust are read in the sunken lounge of the LSC on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. — 2 p.m. by anyone who volunteers.

Monday night,  Dr. Renate Justin, a survivor of the Holocaust, spoke to CSU students. Dr. Justin has written several books and, according to the Students for Holocaust Awareness website, her latest book, “The Last Time I Felt Safe”, is a must-read for those interested in her experiences with anti-semitism.

Adam Fedrid, the advisor for Students for Holocaust Awareness, explained that they are very fortunate to have had Dr. Justin come speak and that she provided everyone with an “opportunity to learn and never forget.”

Fedrid said that this week is necessity for educating everyone on the importance of Holocaust awareness.

“I think it’s important for people to realize history that has actually occurred,” Fedrid said. “We have an opportunity at this present moment to get actual survivors who have a firsthand account of what actually happened.”

From an uncle that survived Auschwitz, to two great grandfathers that were killed by the Nazis, Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik, the faculty advisor for the Chabad Jewish Student Organization, explained the importance of this week for many: the familial ties to their Jewish heritage.

“As a community we feel an obligation to be involved,” Rabbi Gorelik said.

Logan Haynsworth, president of STAND, a student anti-genocide coalition, said her involvement is not a familial tie, but a matter of human rights overall.

“I have been doing activist work since I was 17,” said Haynsworth, a senior ethnic studies major and political science minor.

Haynsworth said that after finding out about the genocide in Darfur, she was hooked on activism work. She said that it isn’t about one individual event, but how they all go against the same thing — human rights.

Haynsworth explained that for Holocaust Awareness Week there has been an incredible companionship between all of the CSU student organizations and CCGAA.

There has been a lot of “piggybacking” amongst the organizations in an effort to bring awareness to everyone, according to Haynsworth.

“The Holocaust isn’t an isolated event,” Haynsworth said.

She said this is not just affecting Jewish people or family members that were in the Holocaust; this is a human rights violation that if unaddressed, will happen again.

“The same ideology that was used to carry out the Holocaust is still happening today. It’s taking something about someone’s identity and using it as a way of targeting a whole population based on that, whether it’s nationality, religion, gender or whatever it may be,” Haynsworth said.

“We need to keep remembering these events so that it doesn’t happen again and as long as we keep remembering, there is no way we will let it happen again,” said Carmody Leerssen Smith, Jewish student life coordinator.

Rachel McSpadden, a member of Chabad, the heart of Jewish Student Life, combines both familial ties and human rights into one driving passion.

“I’m mainly involved because I am Jewish,” McSpadden said. “I have an obligation to my family, and I’m also big on human rights in general.”

McSpadden explained that even she was skeptical of raising awareness around the Holocaust because in her mind, there was no way that a Holocaust-like event would ever happen again. “It’s so easy to brush aside, ‘Oh yeah the Holocaust won’t happen again.’”

She realized after her first meeting with Chabad that this is a very real thing, and that if people aren’t paying attention to themselves and others, this could very easily happen again.

“We need to be more aware in general of anything we do,” McSpadden said.

She also said that while the Holocaust was a large scale event that everyone knows about, there is a much larger scale to pay attention to.

“This is any genocide, not just the Holocaust,” McSpadden said. “Never again do we want to put people in a separated group.”

She explained that after reading some of the names on the Litany of Martyrs, there was so much more to Holocaust Awareness Week than even she realized.

“If we stop saying these people’s names, it’s easy to distance from it all. But if we say their names, we remember that they were people too,” McSpadden said.

Fedrid explained that the keynote speech Wednesday night is important for everyone to attend. Speaker Deborah Lipstadt focuses her research on those that deny the Holocaust, Fedrid said. Her presentation, “The American Campus: A hotbed for anti-semitism?” will be beneficial on many levels, according to Fedrid.

After events wrap up this week at CSU, CCGAA will host a Youth Against Genocide conference in Denver Sunday, including workshops, survivor panels and discussion on ways to become more aware.

Diversity Beat Reporter Alex Steinmetz can be reached at news@collegian.com.