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By Jimi Jo Story
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 17, 1998

Students brave bad weather for Holocaust vigil

UA President Peter Likins said he spoke "from the heart" yesterday as he gave an impromptu speech and announced 20 of the more than 20,000 names that will be read through today as part of the sixth-annual memorial vigil for the Conference on the Holocaust.

The 25-hour vigil began yesterday at noon on the University of Arizona Mall, amidst flickering candles and Holocaust posters blowing over during strong gusts of wind.

The conference, themed "From Tragedy Comes Triumph," is sponsored by the Hillel Foundation.

"I'm pleased to participate in this memorial - it's appropriate for me to participate and pause and remember the victims and their significance for all of humankind," Likins said.

Likins said his speech was impromptu because he wanted to "speak from the heart."

"If a speech is spontaneous, it's seen as being more genuine," he said.

Likins, who is Catholic, gave his short speech before starting the vigil by reading 20 names of Holocaust victims to a crowd of about 30 students.

"By the end of the vigil we will have had a couple hundred students reading more than 20,000 names," vigil coordinator Brad Shank said. "We want to have remembrance in their minds so that nothing like this ever happens again."

Hillel's Conference on the Holocaust is held as a reminder of one of history's darkest moments, and to help prevent future acts of genocide, Shank said.

"When I see this, I hope that the mistakes of the past will not repeat themselves," said Abraham Galadima, a soil and water sciences graduate student.

Likins said that the Holocaust was "symbolic of behavior that sullies us all, scars us all and diminishes us all."

Shank, a history sophomore, said that the University of Arizona campus does not have a problem with anti-Semitism.

"We're lucky to have a diverse campus that is allowing of different people," he said.

"It's sad that the American government and the governments around the world allowed the Holocaust to happen," Shank said. "(The Conference) makes me hope that something like this cannot happen again."

The Holocaust victims were not limited to Jews - Poles, Russians, gays and lesbians, gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses and the incurably sick were also persecuted during Adolf Hilter's Nazi regime.

"This is about educating people on what's happening in different religions and cultures," said Michael Benveniste, a political science junior. "It indirectly makes the campus open for effective communication."

Despite predictions that storms will hit Tucson with more hard rain and wind, the vigil will continue until 1 p.m. today.

"I have a tent and a space heater. We're staying out," Shank said.

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