MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Like those all around the world, people at WVU gathered on Monday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi operated Auschwitz concentration camp.
The extermination camp in Poland was where roughly 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, were killed before it was liberated by allied forces in 1945. All in all, it is estimated that 6 million Jews died during World War II at the hands of the Nazis. More than 200 Holocaust survivors and world leaders gathered at the Auschwitz Memorial Museum to honor the day and the event was live-streamed globally, to viewers like those at WVU.
“It’s [the commemoration ceremony] been great,” WVU sociology professor and attendee James Nolan said. “You feel like you’re there, it’s really an opportunity to just be part of something, part of a significant part of our history.”
The viewing was organized by WVU’s chapter of Pi Lambda Phi, it ran from 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and was also being streamed at WVU Beckley and Potomac State College. Lisa DiBartolomeo, a WVU teaching professor and Pi Lambda Phi committee chairperson helped organized the event that was attended by more than 40 people throughout the day including faculty, staff, Morgantown community members and students.
“One of the things that I hope that they take from this is hearing first hand from survivors because it’s one thing to deny the Holocaust if you don’t listen to the people who lived through it,” DiBartolomeo said. “We’re only going to have them as a resource for a few more years. They’re elderly, many of them are in frail health and so it’s our duty to listen to them while we still can.”
“I would also say it’s an opportunity to think about what we do to our fellow human beings on a daily basis,” DiBartolomeo said. “Both at a microscopic level and a macroscopic level, how we treat our fellow human beings locally, globally, the legacy of antisemitism, of hatred is, unfortunately, active everyday in everyone’s lives so I would hope that people take this moment, take this day, only a week after Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to continue to think about the legacy.”
She said she had been in contact with some schools around the state, namely, lots of social studies and history teachers who also streamed the live event for their students.
Nolan, the professor, and attendee, like DiBartolomeo, said he was concerned about Holocaust denial in the modern age. He said the more time that goes by, the more people start and continue to deny whether the Holocaust happened or if it happened as history says it did.
He said it was important to keep commemorating the Holocaust because it makes it harder for people to ignore or deny when we as a world keep it at the forefront of our minds. Nolan added that we have to do it as a world because it’s a global responsibility.
“Somebody else didn’t do it, we all contributed, the world contributed,” Nolan said. “Some of the stories you can see how that happened, including the refusal for the US to take refugees during a time when they needed help. All of those things remind us we’re part of the reasons why it happens and the reasons–we’re all part of the prevention effort to stop it.”
Attendees were provided with resources on the Holocaust and given information on how they can learn more. DiBartolomeo said people who weren’t in attendance who want to receive more information can email her: Lisa.DiBartolomeo@mail.wvu.edu.