By Caleb Slinkard
The Commerce Journal
Texas A&M University-Commerce students and community members will have a unique opportunity to hear firsthand from three Holocaust survivors their individual experiences, an opportunity that is becoming rarer by the day.
The Holocaust Days of Remembrance, sponsored by the Department of Political Science and the Dallas Holocaust Museum, will feature Margaret Furst, Jack Repp and Rosa Blum, as well as various Holocaust artifacts and a traveling museum.
The purpose? To give students and community members an opportunity to connect with history.
“The logic behind the way we’re doing this it that this is a generation that’s passing,” Dr. Jeffrey Herndon, assistant professor of political science, said. “We want to make sure that the current generation gets an opportunity to hear these stories and to see the artifacts associated with it. It’s one thing to read about the Holocaust in a book; it’s completely different to have somebody tell you ‘this is what happened to me.’”
The speakers all have a different perspective on the Holocaust that they will bring to the event. Furst is from Germany, and was on a Kindertransport that rescued approximately 10,000 Jewish children by sending them to the United Kingdom.
Repp, who spoke at last year’s event, is from Poland and was part of the resistance there. Blum, from Romania, spent time in Auschwitz and Dachau before she was liberated by the U.S. Army.
“These people have first-hand knowledge of this horrific aspect of the 21st century,” Herndon said. “And I say horrific; the holocaust highlights the best and worst.
“Everyone understands the worst, but not many people understand the best that it brought out in people. The triumph of hope and endurance in the face of unbelievable suffering.”
Herndon said that understanding the Holocaust begins with accepting that the events occurred.
“One of the things you learn when you teach Holocaust classes is that people come into it with the question ‘How could this happen?’” he said. “I don’t think that is always the right question to start with.
“I think you start with the supposition that this happened, and here is what happened. You have to do away with that kind of disbelief, and when you have a survivor sitting in front of you, it is easier to connect with the events.”
According to Herndon and graduate assistant Donna Gosbee, last year’s event was well-attended and the audience was attentive to the speaker.
“For most students and people who attend, it is a mesmerizing experience,” Herndon said.
The Holocaust Days of Remembrance will take place on April 21 and 22 in the Rayburn Student Center on the A&M-Commerce campus.
The event is free and open to the public.
Furst will speak on April 21 at 10 a.m., Repp on April 21 at 2 p.m., and Blum on April 22 at 10 a.m.
Presentations will take place in Conference Rooms A, B and C.