Editor of Production
In honor of International Holocaust Day on Jan. 27, freshmen Eva Schooler, Alex Pomeroy, and Pranathi Adhikari delivered a presentation after school through Model United Nations to recognize the lives lost during the worst genocide in history. “The oppression of people is so common throughout history and I think that it’s important to recognize such atrocities to assure that history doesn’t repeat again,” said Schooler, one of the speakers at the presentation.
Schooler, Pomeroy, and Adhikari spoke in depth about the atrocities committed during the Holocaust, sharing the daily struggles of Jews and other groups oppresed by the Nazi Regime. The presentation was aimed to last about 20 minutes. But, seeing the dejection in the faces of the small crowd that came to listen, social studies teacher and Model United Nations adviser Donna Oppedisano decided to take the floor before the presentation concluded, hoping to end on a more uplifting note.
“One of the things that’s a struggle for people who hear about the Holocaust and teach about the Holocaust is the struggle of hearing so much of the negative and feeling so down about it,” said Ms. Oppedisano. “I think, although it was a horrifying thing and the truth of it is ugly and dark, one of the things that gives me hope for the future of our world is that there are folks who stood up,” said Ms. Oppedisano.
The Righteous Among the Nations exhibit at Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem recognizes those during the Holocaust who stood up in the face of great danger. Ms. Oppedisano told the story of one of these heroes: Sempo Sugihara of Japan.
Sugihara was a Japanese diplomat to Lithuania during World War II that saved the lives of over 6,000 Jews by issuing transit visas so they could escape to Japanese territory, risking his career and his life. As Ms. Oppedisano shared his uplifting story, she got choked up as she described how Sugihara rescued thousands by throwing visas out of the window of a moving train to swarms of Jews, desperate to leave the country before it was too late.
“I think it’s very important to tell that story, because it talks about what it means to resist oppression and to help fellow human beings in the face of great danger. And that can be a lesson for us all in the future that helps us to find our role as citizens and human beings,” said Ms. Oppedisano.
For one of the speakers, her presentation for Holocaust Remembrance Day was particular close to her heart. “Not only am I Jewish, but I lived in Germany for many years, so that definitely made it more interesting for me,” said Schooler. It was Schooler’s time in Germany that led to her concern for the Holocaust. “Much of what I know about the Holocaust comes from my visits to German concentration camps, where I was able to truly witness the terrible conditions Jews and others were put through,” she said.
In light of the recent election of Donald Trump and his comments regarding International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Schooler says it’s important that we continue to remind Americans about the Holocaust. “We have to constantly be reminded of the dark moments in our world’s past, to assure that such actions will not be repeated,” said Schooler.