Northwestern students gather to remember the Holocaust more than 70 years later

A Northwestern student wearing his “Never Forget” sign on his shirt listens to the Rabbi’s speech to the students.

Hillary Back/The Daily Northwestern

A Northwestern student wearing his “Never Forget” sign on his shirt listens to the Rabbi’s speech to the students.

Ellie Friedmann, Reporter

Northwestern students dressed in black marched through campus in silence reminding their peers not to forget a catastrophe that occurred more than 70 years ago.

The NU community remembered the Holocaust on Monday with a short walk, a memorial ceremony for victims and a talk given by survivor John Mascai.

In Hebrew, “Shoah” means catastrophe. “Yom HaShoah” is translated into English as “Holocaust Remembrance Day.”

“Holocaust Remembrance Day at Northwestern has traditionally been planned by a couple Jewish organizations in the past, and last year was the first year that we decided to expand beyond that,” said Sammie Offsay, event planner and a Weinberg senior. “Last year I contacted different student groups on campus who represented other victims groups.”

There are 35 co-sponsors this year, including Northwestern to Benefit Special Olympics, American Sign Language Club, the German department, LGBT Resource Center, Alpha Epsilon Pi and Associated Student Government.

The first event of the day began at noon. Mascai, a Hungarian Jew, told his personal Holocaust story to a classroom of 60 in University Hall.

Mascai said his childhood was a simple, middle-class existence. He said he was an excellent student and dreamed of becoming an architect.

“One Sunday morning I look out the apartment building, and I see tanks, German soldiers and flags of swastikas,“ he said. “That’s when hell broke loose.”

He said Jewish men between the ages of 18 and 48 had to report for labor duty. He was 18 and his father was 48, so both were called.

“As bad as this was, what came later was worse,” he said. “The end became kind of totally unbearable, indescribable human hell.”

Mascai went on to explain how his father was killed in the Holocaust just a few days before he was liberated.

Now, after moving to America and achieving his dream of becoming an architect, he has a wife, four children, ten grandchildren and a great-grandchild on the way.

“And that’s the end of the story,” he said. “How much happier and nicer could it be?”

SESP sophomore Sarah Bruhl participated in the memorial events. She said that to her, Yom HaShoah means remembering all the people touched by the Holocaust.

“My family was affected,” she said. “My grandpa, my mother’s father, was a Holocaust survivor, so it’s really close to my heart because I’ve heard his stories.”

Many students like Bruhl gathered around the rock at 3:30 p.m. before taking a memorial walk through campus. They walked in a single file line, remaining silent throughout, many wearing black with a sticker that read “Never Forget.” Almost 60 people participated in the walk and the memorial ceremony immediately following. A few spoke or recited prayers, and the ceremony ended with the lighting of a candle.

Ethan Levine-Weinberg, a Communication junior, said a few words before the walk began.

“The lessons from the Holocaust loom as large today as they did at the war’s conclusion 68 years ago,” he said. “Today we still have genocides around the world. Religious and racial bigotry, gender inequality, fanaticism, cyber-bullying, it’s all here and we know about it.”

Levine-Weinberg said people must remember the Holocaust to ensure that it will never happen again.

“Be the first responder to help a friend, and always remember to be the first to speak up for yourself,” he said.