Yosi Pollak, Auschwitz, age 1. Serenka Padawer, Auschwitz, age 5. Nathan Huf, Frampol, age 10.
In honor of Wednesday’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day, members of the SIU chapter of the Hillel Foundation read through a book of more than a million Holocaust victims’ names in the Faner breezeway.
Every name in the book belonged to a child.
Of the approximately 6 million Holocaust victims, at least 1.5 million were children, said Assaf Grumberg, an emissary for the Jewish Federation of southern Illinois.
Grumberg said his job is to work with campuses and communities to educate people about Israel.
He said when he read through the book of adult names, he came across a name that looked familiar. Grumberg said after seeing the last name, date of death and village, he knew it was a distant family member of his.
“It was incredible,” he said.
Moriah Bradley, a graduate student in social work from Skokie and director of SIU Hillel, said the group has two books of about a million names each from the Yad Vashem — the central database of Holocaust victims’ names. In the past three years on Remembrance Day, the group has tried to get through all of the names by reading them aloud, nonstop, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. They also state the location of the person’s death and their age.
“This is much more than reading names,” Grumberg said. “It’s to educate people passing by.”
One thing he said he wanted to educate people about was the system used to determine whether a person was Jewish. The person was invited into a doctor’s office or measured in the street for eye color, skin color, hair color, nose size and head size, Grumberg said.
“They believed it was all biological,” he said.
Bradley said last year not as many people stopped by Hillel’s table, but this year she saw a bigger response.
“A lot of people are saying it’s really great to see this on campus, raising awareness,” she said.
One person that stopped by was Casey Cavinder, an SIU alumnus.
He said he had been reflecting on the Holocaust and it made him think of the Golden Rule.
“We have to love each other as human beings,” Cavinder said. “If we love ourselves, we love power. And if we love power and power over others, that is very regrettable and very wrong.”
Bradley said some people walked by the table and smiled in acknowledgment but make no comment. She said she thinks for those
people, it’s more of a personal moment.
A classmate of Bradley brought students over from Brehm School to see the table and posters, and Bradley said each student got to read a name aloud.
Greg Alper, a senior from St. Louis studying industrial design and president of SIU Hillel Foundation, said he’s been to the readings for the past three years.
He said each year, he has seen group members grow from the event.
“For the members that have been a part of Hillel, their comfort level for wanting to express this information to the public has grown, and the comfort of those who have been around sort of washes off onto new members,” Alper said.
He said knowing many of the people in the books were mothers and fathers is bad enough, but hearing the names of children rekindles emotions and sends chills down his spine.
Susan Pearlman, a retired associate professor of early childhood education, said she has read at the event for several years because there are still many names left, and someone needs to remember them.
“The survivors of the Holocaust are either old or passed away, so it’s important we keep it in mind so it doesn’t happen again,” she said.
SIU Hillel House is holding a weeklong Holocaust Remembrance, which will end with a memorial Shabbat service at 6 p.m. Friday at the Congregation of Beth Jacob.