Rowan Center for the Study of the Holocaust addresses genocide awareness in panel discussion

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Students at the International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2022. - Photo via RCHGHR

Students from the Rowan Center for the Study of the Holocaust (RCHGHR) led a discussion on genocide awareness coinciding with Yom Hashoah, a day to commemorate all the victims and survivors of the Holocaust which occurs each year on the 27th day of the Hebrew Month of Nisan. 

Yom Hashoah was first introduced back in 1951 by the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, and is observed by Jewish communities all around the globe. This year’s commemoration took place on the evening of April 17 to the evening of April 18. 

According to the Anti-Defamation League, in 2022 there were 3,697 antisemitic incidents in the United States, which was a 36% increase from the year prior and the highest total number of incidents since 1979. 

Given the rise of antisemitism in the United States, the event which was led by Student Association President Lexi Oliver and Graduate Advisor Ryn Seu, focused not only on the Holocaust but other genocides such as the Rwandan and Bosnia genocide.  

“It’s important to have events like these, so that not only people are aware about genocides, including the Holocaust, Rwanda, Bosnia and so on. It’s important that people know that if you’re interested in it, and you want to do something and you want to say something, you totally can,” Seu said. 

A common misconception of the Holocaust is that it gave birth to antisemitism and that something like it could never happen again, when in actuality antisemitism’s roots can be traced back all the way to biblical times when Abraham founded the people of Israel.  

Since the Holocaust ended 77 years ago, there have been a number of genocides taking place today with the Chinese Government’s repressive policies against the Uyghur people and Burma’s ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people.  

With the rise of hate against Jewish communities in the country, coupled with genocides still taking place today, having days to commemorate those affected by these atrocities can lead to important discussions that open pathways to better understanding of race, ethnic groups and religions.  

“I think it’s important because a lot of people don’t realize the extent of the Holocaust and the extent of other genocides. I talked to my mom and she didn’t even know about Rwanda and she lived during that. And I think we should just really educate people because history shouldn’t repeat itself. And the more people that know the easier it is to prevent future genocides,” Oliver said. 

The presentation led by Oliver and Seu included videos of people who survived genocides with the first one being Lydia Tischler, who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp, and Eugenie Mukeshimana, a survivor of the Rwandan Genocide. Each highlighted their experiences in navigating what its like to live in a country that wants to exterminate the group you are a part of. 

Then those in attendance were given written testimonies from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) of the personal history of men, women and children affected by the Holocaust that either made it through the war or succumbed to the evil of the Nazi regime. 

According to standuptojewishhate.org, almost two-thirds of Jewish-Americans have experienced forms of antisemitism on social media with one-eighth of Jewish-Americans being personally targeted.    

Social media, while being a place that can facilitate positive political movements, has also been utilized by individuals to spread their hateful views to others that share the same sentiments. Hillel social media chair member, Kevin Jenner, hopes people realize this as we continue to use these platforms on a daily basis.   

“I think people do have to recognize that hate speech is a problem in the United States, especially recently prolifically. Antisemitism has been on the rise for many years now as my advisor stated. It’s been going on for thousands of years, but we’re mainly being made more aware of it nowadays due to the influx of social media and broadcasting,” Jenner said. 

While there is not a concrete death toll number, it is believed that around 11 million people were killed by the Nazi regime during the Holocaust, with 6 million of those people being Jewish according to USHMM. The Rawandan genocide lasted 100 days, starting in April and ending in June 1994, as Hutu Nationalist carried out the systematic extermination of nearly 1 million Tutsi citizens in the east-central African country.

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