May 1 is Yom Hashoah, or international Holocaust Remembrance Day. Hillel of WWU and STAND: A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition are hosting Holocaust Remembrance Week.
Today, the word “Holocaust” is primarily used to refer to the killing of approximately six million European Jews, as well as gay men, gypsies, the disabled, and political and religious dissidents, during World War II. Originally, it is a Greek word which translates to “burnt whole.”
In Hebrew, the Holocaust is called “Shoah,” which means “storm,” Hillel of WWU President Anna Talvi said.
This is the first major campus event Hillel has hosted in about ten years related to Holocaust remembrance, Talvi said. To spread the word about Holocaust Remembrance Week, Hillel is teaming up with STAND.
“STAND does wonderful work on this campus in terms of raising awareness of modern day genocide and crimes against humanity,” Talvi said. “We really wanted to bring student activists in to serve as experts.”
This week's events are not just about remembering the Holocaust, but are also about raising awareness of genocide elsewhere in the world, STAND co-coordinator Lacey Rojas said.
“[Hillel] approached us to get people to realize that the same kinds of genocide are going on while we go to school, while we're in classes, while we're at McDonald's,” Rojas said.
Hillel and STAND are starting the week by showing “Hotel Rwanda” at 6 p.m. today in Communications Facility 110, followed by a discussion.
“The Rwandan genocide was ignored by world leaders and was a completely mismanaged crisis,” Talvi said. “I think it's very important that students realize that genocide happening even with all the politicians knowing about it is still a possibility.”
STAND and Hillel will show a slideshow about modern day genocide in the Darfur region on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in CF 110.
Raising awareness of the genocide in Darfur is an important part of Holocaust Remembrance Week, Talvi said.
“It's very important for people to understand that the holocaust was not the end of genocide,” she said.
Part of Wednesday's presentation will focus on ways people can be active in helping the situation in Darfur, Rojas said.
“What we can do as Americans is contact our representatives,” Rojas said. “We could write to the president of Sudan and say, ‘What you're doing is wrong,' but what's he going to care?”
Hillel will host a silent candlelight vigil on Thursday at 8 p.m. in Red Square.
The images and content people will be confronted with during the week will take people out of their comfort zones, but Talvi said she encourages students to attend at least one event.
“We're the last generation that will have a direct connection to the Holocaust,” Talvi said. “It's up to us now to continue to teach this as a living history.”