USC community reflects on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Organizations like the Shoah Foundation and USC artists and professors are promoting events to remember the day of commemoration.

Thursday marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and 2022 is the 77th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

On this poignant day, the USC community has found ways to reflect through commemorations planned by various on-campus organizations.

The USC Shoah Foundation has preserved over 55,000 photographs and accounts of the Holocaust and genocide survivors and witnesses. The foundation offers an interactive VR experience called Dimensions in Testimony where participants can hear Holocaust survivors and speak to them about their experiences. The foundation also organized a series of speaker events to discuss and reflect upon the day.

The preservation of documents like these seems more essential than ever. Nearly half of adults worldwide have not heard about the Holocaust, the state-sponsored genocide which saw the murder of over six million Jews by Nazi German forces.

Timothy Werlinger, a teaching assistant in Jewish studies at USC said it is necessary for people to understand the events that led to the Holocaust, the genocide itself and the world’s reaction. Learning all aspects of its history, Werlinger said, will help prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.

“[T]he hatred, the prejudice that the Nazis were practicing was directed towards all sorts of peoples … So we have to remember. If we don’t remember, we’d forget — and forgetting would be possibly worse than anything else right now.”

Members of the USC community have also been reflecting on the day through artistic expression. Professor Ruth Weisberg, a former Roski dean who now directs the USC Initiative for Israeli Arts and Humanities and teaches fine art at USC, creates artwork portraying Holocaust survivors, particularly children.

Weisberg created a series of photos and art pieces focusing on the children who formed the Kindertransport, a rescue effort to take children out of Nazi Germany.

“I think commemorating things with special days really emphasizes them and brings them to the attention of more people and allows you to focus your thoughts as well,” Weisberg said.

According to Weisberg, emotion plays a substantial role in remembrance.

“Whether it’s sadness or a sense of remembrance or memory, I try to ask those things,” Weisberg said. “I often have a kind of texture overlay that goes under and over the images and so you almost feel like you have to part some curtains in order to reach the people that you’re seeing.”

Kori Street, interim executive director of the Shoah Foundation, encouraged students to go onto the foundation’s website and hear some of the survivor’s testimonies of the Holocaust to honor the day.

“I think International Holocaust Remembrance Day is about remembering those who not only perished during the Holocaust, but those who survived,” Street said. “So, I think the best way to honor their memory is to listen to their stories.”

The Shoah Foundation has also partnered with various organizations to combat the growing issue of antisemitism. According to Street, Shoah will be partnering with Nickelodeon Friday in a workshop aimed at countering antisemitism.

“I think that the Holocaust is a great example of what happens when hatred goes unchecked. You know, it occurred because people didn’t stand up and stop increasingly horrific and violent antisemitism,” Street said.

The USC community has also used this day to reflect upon Holocaust education and why remembering these tragedies is so essential for our future.

“There has to be a reason why we continue to study this very discrete topic and why it’s of such importance,” said Werlinger. “One of those reasons, I think, is because we always want to try to practice that notion of never letting it happen again.”