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Students read Holocaust survivor writings

Words written by Holocaust survivors were read aloud by USF students and others Wednesday to show that the World War II-era genocide of more than 6 million Jewish men, women and children, was not solely a Jewish tragedy.

Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, executive director of Hillels of the Florida Suncoast, introduced the Holocaust Memorial Program, which was held in the Grace Allen Room of the Library and attracted 50 students, USF personnel and community members. While the Holocaust claimed many Jewish lives, Rosenthal said it took many more in total.

“The 6 million, that’s only Jews,” he said. “We’re not remembering only Jews tonight. This evening we’re here to remember the martyrs of the Jewish people, but also we remember the genocide and inhumanity of the Nazis was directed against others.”

Rosenthal said the Nazis “sought to destroy” people of other races and sexualities, yet those groups are still victims of discrimination today.

Nine students read eight passages during the program. Brandon Schuster, a junior majoring in mass communications, read a piece from Hanna Levy-Hass, a Yugoslavian woman who survived a German concentration camp, that described children in the concentration camp.

“Children at an age when their minds and bodies struggle to develop are reduced to physical and moral vegetation and humiliating conditions of mass servitude that destroy and defeat their energy,” Schuster read.

After readings, audience members were invited to speak. Jason Rodencal, a freshman majoring in biomedical sciences who is Jewish, said he was “pleasantly surprised” that a gay Holocaust survivor was recognized with the reading of “I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual,” written by Seel.

“The homosexuals in the concentration camps were labeled with the pink triangles,” Rodencal said. “One hundred thousand homosexual men in Germany were detained or arrested and 50,000 were actually imprisoned. Fifteen thousand of those were held in concentration camps, where accounts have said the prisoners with pink triangles suffered sexual abuse.”

Rosenthal ended the program by saying it’s the student generation’s responsibility to perpetuate the memory of the Holocaust so genocide will one day become a topic of history.

“As the survivors are passing away, it’s we who are here now, and you all bear the responsibility to bear witness to this,” he said. “That you’re here tonight, in effect, denies that posthumous victory to the Nazis. All those peoples who they sought to destroy are here living in the world.”