Amidst all of the noise and activity on campus Monday came a reverent, solemn occasion on the ECU Mall. In front of the Cupola, students, faculty, and staff recognized the eighth annual Holocaust Awareness Day, sponsored by the Volunteer and Service-Learning Center (VSLC).
This day designated a time for the ECU community to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust, the genocide of millions of European Jews during World War II.
“It’s so important to pay attention to the past so this tragedy will not be repeated,” said Shawn Moore, community partner coordinator at the VSLC. “This event really gives everyone the proper perspective. Unfortunately, many times, we get caught up in daily activities and live in our own little bubbles.”
An ECU student passes out bracelets with the names and ages of Holocaust victims written on them.
Moore emphasized that she hopes the students take what they have learned from this experience with them when they leave ECU and go out into the world.
“We want them to think about how they treat people and to make good decisions,” she said.
The day’s events started at 6:30 a.m. with “Unto Every Person is a Name,” during which volunteers read the names of Holocaust victims. Children’s names are read first since April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Jessica Gagne Cloutier, service-learning coordinator at the VSLC, recalled the first time she was part of reading of the names.
“I was out reading names early in the morning, so it was very quiet and dark outside,” she said. “I felt the most emotional and personal connection with these people. The reading of the names is not just about reiterating names, but about restoring the victims’ identities.”
Volunteers from all walks of life signed up to read names: ECU students, professors, and people from the community. At 10:00 a.m., students from the Greenville Montessori School arrived to participate in the event and to show their respect to Holocaust survivors.
Amy Osereff, a teacher from Greenville Montessori School, brought fifth and sixth grade students who are reading The Diary of Anne Frank, which chronicles the time that teenager Anne Frank and her family were hiding during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Everyone in the Frank family, except for the father, Otto Frank, perished in concentration camps.
“Anne’s diary was personal; she never intended for other people to read it,” said Osereff. “Yet, her words have taught us what it was like for her and her family to go through this horrible experience. We have learned about man’s inhumanity of man.”
Osereff’s students have been completing writing assignments that go along with their class discussions. Students Adam Eldib and Leah Bier talked about what they have learned thus far from reading the book, completing the assignments, and coming to the reading of the names.
“I think the victims would be happy that we remembered them,” said Eldib. “So many people suffered in concentration camps, and it just makes me feel bad to think about it.”
Bier added that the writing assignments really made her think about what it would be like to be in Frank’s situation. “I am sad all of those people died,” she said.
Gagne-Cloutier also read The Diary of Anne Frank as a child.
“The Diary of Anne Frank really made an impression on me at a young age,” she said. “I hope the students are able to think about what they are reading in order to improve life for others and to move towards equality.”
While the reading of the names was taking place, ECU students distributed remembrance bracelets at Wright Plaza.
Students Aayushi Naik, Kelly Johnson, and Phillip White chose to volunteer with this event as part of their Business 2200 class. They handed out the bracelets, and made luminaries and posters, as well.
Debrisha Morris participates in the reading of the names at the ECU Mall during Holocaust Awareness Day.
“It is important to look back on history and to remember the victims,” said Naik. “We need to educate people about what happened because knowledge is the best way to prevent hatred.”
Later that day, volunteers set up the luminaries around campus. That night, the remembrance luminaries were lit as the reading of the names continued.
According to Moore, the lighting of the remembrance luminaries is the most beautiful sight.
“It’s so serene and peaceful,” she said. “As the sun goes down, the luminaries are lit and the mall is glowing with light. It looks like a switch has been turned on.”
White added that this day is a great time to show honor and respect to those who died during the Holocaust.
“Sometimes we get in our daily ruts and forget the tragedy that happened,” he said. “We want people to remember those who died.”
By Meagan Williford, University Marketing