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Reflections on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

By Jessie Levine ’26 and Jonathan Becker ’26

a row of lit candle

Last semester, I convened a committee of students, faculty, and staff to organize programming for International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Sophomores Jonathan Becker and Jessie Levine, members of the planning committee, wrote the following piece to provide a bit of context and share information about this week’s scheduled activities.

- Adam Kirtley, Interfaith Chaplain

This month of the Hebrew calendar is known as Shevat, the month in which the holiday of Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees, is observed. Although trees can be a symbol of life, they can also be viewed as a symbol of remembrance. For example, Ya'ar HaKdoshim, the Forest of the Martyrs in Jerusalem, has 6 million trees to commemorate the 6 million Jewish lives that were lost during the Holocaust.

This coming Saturday, Jan. 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The day was established by the United Nations in 2005 in recognition of the liberation of Auschwitz on January 27, 1945. People around the world take this day to bear witness to the horrors of the Holocaust and honor the millions of lives lost.

The Holocaust was the deliberate and organized persecution and execution of people who did not align with Hitler’s ideal “Aryan” society. In addition to the 6 million Jews who were murdered, millions of people from other groups were also targeted and killed. These groups were deemed “undesirables” to Hitler’s ideal society and included groups like Roma, Slavs, members of the LGBTQ community, people with mental and physical disabilities, black people and political dissenters. It is important to recognize the numerous other communities that were impacted by the genocide and International Holocaust Remembrance Day honors all the lives lost in the Holocaust.

Remembering the Holocaust and the tragic impact that widespread hate can have on humanity is integral to keeping history from repeating itself. We take this day to renew our commitment to standing up against hatred in all of its forms. We also take this day to acknowledge the pain and intergenerational trauma we feel as a result of the Holocaust. We grieve lives lost and commit to collectively saying “never again.”

We, as members of Whitman College’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day Planning Committee, would like to invite you to join us for the programming we have scheduled throughout the week, including:

  • A screening of “The Flat” on Wednesday, Jan. 24 at 4 p.m. in the Reid Campus Center, Young Ballroom.
  • A reading of a mayoral proclamation in recognition of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday, Jan. 24 at 6:30 p.m. at Walla Walla City Hall.
  • Mourner’s kaddish and musical reflection on Thursday, Jan. 25 at 4 p.m. in the Reid Campus Center, Young Ballroom.
Published on Jan 24, 2024
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