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Holocaust Remembrance Day: A Time of Reflection for BTC Students

February 7, 2020

In recognition of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Blackhawk’s Multi-Cultural Alliance and its advisor, instructor Rubina Jan hosted screenings of Visual History Testimonies, a documentary production of Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation. After creating the award-winning film Schindler's List, Steven Spielberg established the Foundation to videotape and preserve the testimonies of Holocaust survivors and witnesses.

Students viewed the testimonies and were asked to reflect on the experiences that were shared. About 75 students from Intro to Sociology and Intro to Psychology classes watched the film and were asked to reflect on a series of questions

“Students were very thoughtful in their reflections of the film,” said Rubina Jan. “I was overwhelmed by the number of thought-provoking comments. Some of the sentiments expressed included: disbelief, empathy, outrage, sorrow, sense of helplessness were some common themes that were expressed.”

Some comments from students include:

  • “I found it important that the survivors are willing to tell their stories because we can learn from what happened. It was important for them to forgive in order to move on with their lives. Lastly, no matter what they were going through they always valued the importance of family and through their family support they were able to survive.”
  • “I think humans have a giant capacity for coping. They said in the documentary they held on to love and family. So, your support system is very important… without someone or something to believe in, your ability to cope and have strength would be weaker.”
  • “It is essential for us to remember what happened to all of these innocent lives. If we do not continue to educate our children these events will be forgotten and the next generation could revert back to the past.”

According to a recent study conducted by Schoen Consulting, 41% of Americans do not know what Auschwitz is and 58% of respondents feel “something like the Holocaust” could happen again. That is why Rubina feels it is important to keep sharing these testimonies with her students.

“Education and awareness is the most essential goal of such programming. There is an ongoing need for education to help students prepare themselves to respond to oppressive events. This allows them to engage in difficult reflection and discussion in a safe environment,” Rubina explained.

The Shoah Visual History Foundation develops empathy, understanding, and respect through testimony. By recording and preserving audiovisual testimonies of eyewitnesses to genocide and crimes against humanity, they give voice to survivors and share their life histories and experiences with the world.

While the witnesses guide us the viewer through the darkness of humanity, they also shed light on the possibilities for every individual to counter hatred. The Foundation believes that testimony has a positive influence on people to be more kind, empathetic and humanistic.

Their education programs deliver practical digital tools and resources with a Visual History Archive, a repository containing 55,000 testimonies of survivors and witnesses to genocide and crimes against humanity. The Foundation aims to preserve history in a digital age so that it can be experienced and retold through the stories of survivors. Ultimately, the work of the USC Shoah Foundation centers around a worldwide effort to bring testimony to light, to preserve the faces and voices of the people who witnessed history, allowing their firsthand stories to inspire action to build a more positive world for generations to come.

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