A pile of shoes and diary entries of Holocaust victims were just part of yesterday’s Holocaust memorial and served as a stark reminder of the horrors committed during genocides, both past and present.
The event was part of Holocaust Remembrance Week, a week to remember and honor the victims of the Holocaust, said computer science graduate student Mathew Schlachtman who is president of Hillel, the campus Jewish club that sponsored the event.
Hillel members spent the day reading the names of some of the Holocaust victims. Even though they read names for eight hours straight, only a small portion of victims were named, testament to the sheer number of victims.
“We want to honor those who passed. We put this event out to make sure people never forget what happened,” Schlactman said.
The shoes, which were donated by students, community members, and Goodwill, were piled on Dexter lawn to represent the victims who were stripped of everything they owned, HIllel Vicce President and business senior Inna Treyger said.
“The reason Holocaust museums have shoe piles is because shoes are such a personal belonging. Imaging how vulnerable you would feel without your shoes,” she said.
After completion of the event, Hillel will donate the shoe pile to Goodwill.
In addition to the shoe pile, the club put up six posters featuring personal stories and diary excerpts from victims in the holocaust.
Treyger said the club picked stories of everyday people turned victims in the hopes that the message will resonate with Cal Poly students.
“We hope that people stop and think for a minute; genocide is still occurring throughout the world. I think it’s really important to raise awareness to combat current and future genocides,” she said.
She thinks giving the victims names and faces will bring students closer to the victims. “These were real people, no different than any of us, who fell victim to this horrific event,” she said.
This year, Hillel is using the event to raise money for Kiva, a non-profit organization that provides loans to underprivileged citizens in developing countries. The recipients use the money to start small businesses and lift themselves out of poverty.
Treyger said Kiva was pertinent to this event because in Judaism, the most honorable kind of charity is to help someone become independent. “It’s not just about giving someone money. You are giving them the opportunity to be sustainable and to make something of themselves,” she said.
Treyger said the tagline for the event was “never again, never forget,” because, as the famous saying by Edmund Burke says, “those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”
“We really hope that history wont repeat itself, not only for the Jewish people, but for anyone,” she said. “Our generation is the last one to hear Holocaust survivors speak so we really feel it’s our responsibility to carry on their stories and remember this dark period of history,” she said.
— Ashley Ciullo contributed to this report.