Harvard Hillel held a memorial service on the steps of Widener Library in observation of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday.
Holocaust Remembrance Day marks the anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945 and honors the lives of the millions of Jews and civilians who were killed. In its service, Hillel commemorated the life of Ita Warmund, a victim whose name was chosen from the database of Yad Vashem — Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.
Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, Dean of Students Katherine G. O’Dair, Associate Dean of Students Lauren E. Brandt ’01, Reverend Matthew Ichihashi Potts, Rabbis Jonah C. Steinberg and Hirschy Zarchi each lit a candle in honor of the victims.
In his speech, Steinberg, Hillel’s executive director, emphasized the importance of remembering those whose lives were lost in the Holocaust.
“There’s hardly a family represented here that has not been touched in some way by the sho’ah — by the Holocaust — that does not have a wound in it, which is often a gaping hole, an absence,” Steinberg said.
Despite the loss and tragedy of the Holocaust, Steinberg said it was still important to work toward a “world of togetherness.”
“It doesn’t mean we go through life traumatized and afraid,” Steinberg said. “But it means we go through life carrying that and figuring out how to live forward.”
Harvard Chabad Rabbi Zarchi said in his remarks that the Holocaust revealed knowledge alone does not ensure moral choices.
“Today we light a candle for the souls with a candle of truth,” Zarchi said. “And maybe that’s what veritas teaches us — that there has to be a truth to our knowledge and to our wisdom to ensure that that knowledge leads to morality and to ethical living and to ethical choices.”
As he addressed the crowd, Khurana said “remembering” is one of the “most important of all human acts” and emphasized the importance of sharing the stories of victims of the Holocaust, particularly with younger generations.
“Their stories are an essential part of our shared humanity, and those who are one, two, or three generations removed are committed to understanding those horrible events and retelling the stories for the next generation,” he said. “The Holocaust not only altered the contours of world history, but it shattered the lives of countless families across the world.”
Khurana condemned antisemitism, citing the Texas synagogue hostage crisis and the harms of staying silent in the face of oppression.
“We must not forget the lessons of the Holocaust and the dehumanization upon which it depended,” Khurana said. “And we must not forget that it is within each of us, in our capacity as humans, to decide whether to perpetuate good or evil in the world or remain indifferent.”
Hillel’s memorial also aimed to raised money for The Blue Card, a nonprofit which provides financial, emotional, and physical support to Holocaust survivors in the United States.
The service concluded with a reading of “El Male Rachamim” — a Jewish memorial prayer — by Noa D. Kligfeld ’24.
“May their memory endure, inspiring truth and loyalty in our lives. May their souls be bound up in the bond of life. May they rest in peace. And let us say ‘Amen,’” Kligfeld recited.
—Staff writer Leah J. Teichholtz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LeahTeichholtz.