FMU recognizes Holocaust online

The Student Life Office hosted an International Holocaust Remembrance Day Program from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Jan. 27 on an online platform.

The day promotes awareness of the Holocaust. During World War II, Jewish men, women and children, along with Roma and other minorities living in Germany and other occupied areas, were forced into concentration camps and slaughtered. The Holocaust began in 1941 and ended on May 9, 1945 with the liberation of the Stutthof concentration camp and Theresienstadt Ghetto.

“The whole point of today is awareness,” said Alex McGill, student life coordinator for student engagement. “There’s still people today who don’t know what the Holocaust is or understand genocide.”

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was held over Facebook, where students and the general public could access different media pertaining to the Holocaust. Among the media was a virtual tour of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., videos of Holocaust survivors discussing their experiences and links to movies. Media was posted every hour until 5 p.m. and discussion boards were opened every half-hour until 5 p.m.

“I’m really happy that, even if it’s only in this capacity, we were still able to mark this day and do something and show our students that this is something that we care about,” McGill said.

There was some debate as to whether the program would take place this year, as COVID-19 is still proving a problem. However, McGill decided to move the event to another platform.

“No way is this not going happen,” McGill said. “So we decided, ‘OK, I’ll make it virtual.’”

One aspect that was lacking compared to past programs was the discussion and interaction between the people in attendance that occurred in previous years.

“One of the things that I really wanted to do was incorporate that experience of that discussion, and that’s really hard,” McGill said. “I know it sucks because students really miss [meeting] in person and just connecting with people.”

In past years, Holocaust survivors were able to give talks at the program. Recently, the children of survivors and the Columbia Holocaust Education Commission have taken up the role as speakers.

“[The students] get to see somebody and talk to somebody and really get hit home,” McGill said. “As the survivors are getting older, it’s harder and harder for people to come speak.”

Typically, the turnout was somewhere between 30 and 50 students at previous programs. However, the Facebook event was interacted with by 210 people, though not all of them necessarily attended.

“I guess I just think, ‘Of course, people know about the Holocaust; it’s such a big event,’” McGill said. “But so many students, maybe they know the word, but they don’t really know what happened.”

A few other events, including a Black History Program, a Native American Cultural Program and an International Roma Day Program, are in the works at FMU this semester.