May 6, 2005 — The memory of the murders of more than six million Jews by the Nazis during World War II is seared in the hearts and minds of people everywhere.
Speakers at Yeshiva University’s annual Yom Hashoah memorial event May 4 in Weissberg Commons want to ensure that memory never fades.
“We dismiss memory at our peril,” said President Richard M. Joel in his introductory remarks at ‘Yom Hashoah: Sixty Years After the Holocaust.’ “Sometimes we don’t remember. One of our great gifts is memory.”
More than 300 students from the Wilf and Beren campuses attended the Yom Hashoah event, and they received a brief but powerful lesson on anti-Semitism. Deborah Lipstadt, PhD, the keynote speaker at the event, told the story of her historic legal battle with David Irving, who went to extraordinary and bizarre lengths to prove the Holocaust never happened.
One person with firsthand knowledge that the Holocaust happened was present at Wednesday night’s event and was honored before Dr. Lipstadt spoke. That person was Rabbi Herschel Schacter, a YC alum, and the first US Army chaplain to enter the Buchenwald (Germany) concentration camp after its liberation in 1945. Rabbi Schacter did not address the audience, but President Joel read words Rabbi Schacter once used to describe his experience entering Buchenwald: “I walked up to the crematorium and saw the ovens that were still hot. I saw the piles of dead bodies waiting to be shoveled into the furnace.”
President Joel presented Rabbi Schacter with the Jewish Liberator Award, which was created by Dr. Ruth Bevan on behalf of YU’s Rabbi Arthur Schneier Center for International Affairs. In his remarks about Rabbi Schacter, President Joel said, “Leadership is taking responsibility. Tonight we honor a blessed man for being someone who took responsibility…as a student, as a soldier, as a father, and as a rabbi.”
YC junior Menachem Butler and Stern College for Women senior Eliza Abrams were student organizers of the event, which was sponsored by the Schneier Center in cooperation with YU’s undergraduate student councils.
Dr. Lipstadt, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University and author of History on Trail: My Day in Court with David Irving, called her talk at YU “Holocaust Denial and The New Antisemitism: A Personal Perspective.”
In 1993, Dr. Lipstadt wrote Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. In the book, she referred to Irving as “one of the most dangerous spokespersons for Holocaust denial.” Irving sued Dr. Lipstadt and her publisher for libel and thus began an odyssey which ended with a judge ruling in favor of Dr. Lipstadt. She said she originally became interested in Holocaust denial because she was intrigued by how people, especially students, were responding to the deniers.
Dr. Lipstadt summed up her feelings about those who would deny one of the most horrible events in human history by not focusing on the deniers but by remembering those who died.
“We owe them something,” she said. “If only to live as Jews.”
For more photos of the even click here.