By Holly Watford
Why are you here? This was the central question that Timothy Spraggins, from the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, asked during AUM’s Holocaust Education Program. Why was I here? The Holocaust was something I knew only little about. At first, I thought I was there to write an article for this publication so I could inform others who could not attend. In the end, I learned that I was there because I wanted to learn about this historic event and realize that it could happen to any of us.
The Holocaust Prevention Program is an event held by AUM’s Department of Psychology every year. This time, not only did we have faculty and student members speak, we also had the opportunity to listen to first-hand testimonies of Holocaust survivors. At the beginning of the event, SGA President Marie Reuter explained its purpose, which is to educate younger generations on the Holocaust. Reuter stressed the importance of that education. “The world needs your voice now more than ever,” Reuter said referring to standing up for others and practicing tolerance.
Soon, we were introduced to a movie Night and Fog to help us better understand the events of the Holocaust. The movie was old- produced in 1955-, and in French, but that did not diminish the effect of the images that were shown. The 30-minute video was difficult at times to watch. It showed the concentration camps and the horrifying events that occurred in them. Despite the graphic images that were shown, I do not think that those images were worse than the testimonies that the two guest speakers provided. Max Herzel and Max Steinmetz are both Holocaust survivors whose stories were different but no less traumatic. Herzel did not personally occupy any of the concentration camps, but his parents were both very affected by them. His mother attempted suicide due to the traumatic events surrounding this time and his father was sent to Auschwitz and later died. Steinmetz and his family (father, mother, brother, and sister) were all sent to Auschwitz. Unfortunately, he was the only to survive. Their tragic stories are something that none of us could easily relate to, yet they touch our most intimate source of humanity. For me, their stories gave a better picture of the Holocaust than any video or movie ever could. They lived it and they survived. That is something that no image can capture.
This event was both enlightening and horrifying all at the same time. It was something I came into hesitant but left much more informed. The purpose of this event was clear when Steinmetz stated that this could happen to any of us at any time. He told us that his family never thought that anything like the mass genocide could happen to them, and unfortunately it did. We as a society need to educate ourselves on things that have occurred in the past, so we can work towards preventing them from happening in the future.
Why was I there? To be able to become one of the educated voices of my generation in order to prevent another Holocaust.