Volunteers read aloud the names of children who perished in the Holocaust, a yearly campus memorial tradition, under blue skies Tuesday in Kogan Plaza. From a podium inside the tempietto, readers announced the name, age and home of each child as well as the concentration camp where each was killed. At least one million children died at the hands of the Nazis in Europe during World War II.
Members of GW Hillel organized the eight-hour recitation, which began at 10 a.m. and concluded with a short memorial ceremony. The event coincided with Yom Hashoa, the Jewish holiday of Holocaust remembrance. About 30 readers each took 20-minute shifts, calling out the names within earshot of people moving through the heavily populated plaza.
We were fortunate to be in Kogan Plaza this year, where many people could hear this, said Karen Krantweiss, a Steinhardt Jewish Campus Service Corps fellow at Hillel. More people stopped for a moment to remember the persecution of humanity.
The reading of the names has become a yearly tradition at GW and at other schools throughout the United States, organizers said. Readers, who were both Jewish and non-Jewish, said the experience was powerful.
Just the sound of (the names) is very moving, said freshman Elana Schwartz. I was reading the ages of these kids: one, two, three-years-old. It gets to you that they were so young.
This year visitors were able to place stones near the base of the tempietto to observe the Jewish mourning custom. Yellow Yizkor candles, lit by Jews to honor the memory of the dead, flickered en masse on the structure’s steps.
It makes the Holocaust more real when you put a name to (each person who died), said sophomore Amanda Lurer, who planned the event as chair of Hillel’s Holocaust remembrance committee.
At the memorial ceremony students read excerpts from diaries that children of the Holocaust left behind.
The punishment for everything is death, wrote a 13-year-old girl about the new laws that invaded her home with the Nazis. It doesn’t actually say that this punishment also applies to children, but I think it does apply to us, too.
A 12-year-old girl, starving and abused beyond recognition wrote, I just hope there is a reward for me in heaven because I, like millions of others are in hell right now. Sooner or later we have to be redeemed.
The commemoration concluded with Kaddish, the Jewish prayer recited on occasions of mourning.
It’s important that students are made aware of the Holocaust, Lurer said. Our generation will be the last to actually meet Holocaust survivors. They won’t be around forever and we must tell our children and future Jewish generations what happened.