WALLA WALLA, Wash.—Imagine, as Lisa Silverman’s students did, a temporary earthen “tattoo”; the number 11,000,000 carved like a community grave out of Ankeny Field to represent the victims of the Holocaust.
Or picture, on a wall at Penrose Library, a 3-by-5-foot canvas of incinerating flames, photographs of Holocaust survivors, silhouettes of Holocaust victims and a plea painted in two words: “Remember Us.”
As the capstone of her Whitman course, “Representing the Holocaust in Literature and Film,” Silverman asked her students to create proposals for memorials to mark the annihilation of European Jews and others by the Nazis and their confederates before and during World War II.
Five proposals, each designed by groups of three-to-five students, were unveiled to the public April 25 in Olin Hall. The Whitman student group Shalom coordinated the event to coincide with Yom Hashoah/Holocaust Memorial Day.
“That students would actively engage in the idea of building a Holocaust memorial so far away from where the event occurred, and so far removed in time, is significant,” said Silverman, a visiting assistant professor of German and Religious Studies at Whitman. “It not only points to the resonance of the event in their lives but also to the ongoing issues of genocide and human dignity.”
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The project, Meiches said, forced his group to “think through the difficulties and sensitivities people have in even discussing the Holocaust.
“The experience caused us to confront many real issues and dilemmas with Holocaust representation that otherwise would have remained abstract,” he said.
Silverman emphasized that there was “no one message” about the Holocaust that she sought to convey to her students.
“Very quickly you realize that the Holocaust means something very different to everybody,” she said. “The memorial projects really highlighted that.”
Silverman has devoted much of her academic career to research and writings about Jewish identity, culture and social history. From 1991 to 2001 she worked for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany for compensation and restitution on behalf of victims of Nazi persecution.
“It has been very interesting for me to be teaching in the field of German-Jewish studies in a community that doesn’t have a significant percentage of Jews,” Silverman said of her term at Whitman. “The experience has been challenging and wonderfully edifying.”
CONTACT: Whitman News Service, (509) 527-5156 or (509) 527-5902