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Holocaust vigil prompts student emotion


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CASSIE TOMLIN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Political science junior Eric Werner was one of many who stopped to look at the 1,185 flags representing the millions killed in the Holocaust set up by the Hillel Foundation on the UA Mall yesterday afternoon.
By Ariel Serafin
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 14, 2005
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If you walked through the UA mall yesterday, you probably noticed a sea of neon-colored flags planted in the lawn, lending what initially felt like a cheerful ambience to the heart of the university.

At closer look, however, the signs revealed something more: Each one represented 10,000 human lives lost in the Holocaust.

The field of flags was a small part of the Hillel Foundation-sponsored 24-hour 13th annual Holocaust Vigil, which began at 10 a.m. yesterday and ends at 10 a.m. today.

Featuring a variety of activities and events including information booths, discussion groups, speakers, film viewings and readings of victims' names, the event intended to highlight the importance of this year's theme, "Remembering the Past, Impacting the Future," said Shara Grifenhagen, program director for Hillel.

The event was scheduled for mid-April to commemorate Yom HaShoah, or the Hebrew Holocaust Memorial Day. Although Yom HaShoah falls on May 6 this year, Hillel decided to move the vigil up a few weeks so it didn't interfere with finals, Grifenhagen said.

Students stood on the Mall and listened to the haunting sounds of victims' names and ages echo across the lawn.

Jennifer Devorah Perry, a communications and Judiac studies sophomore, said she attempted to participate in the readings last year but was so overcome with emotion that it became extremely difficult.

"Last year I was reading names up there and I had to come down, because you read each name and you don't even know who that person is," Perry said. "They could have been so amazing, and you don't even know who they were."

Perry said the vigil was important because it gave students a different kind of education.

"While our secular education is important, people need to be educated on morals, on ethics, on how to live their lives, on gratitude and especially on family values, because that's where all this is rooted from," Perry said.

"It's important to look back at our history and learn from it so that we don't make the same mistakes," said AJ Davis, a pre-education freshman. "(The vigil) is a good way to come together as a community, and not only as Jews, because the Holocaust was a really horrible thing for the whole world," Davis said.

Aerospace engineering freshman John Van Bockern agreed the vigil was important because it helped students learn from the past but also because they could see the impact power can have over people.

"It's important that people understand the importance of not letting a man like Hitler with horrible intentions get into that much power ever again," Van Bockern said.

Perry said she thought the event served as more than just a tragic history lesson.

"We can remember and be sad, but we're transforming it into a lesson. People don't understand how blessed they are on this campus," Perry said. "It puts everything into perspective."



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