YU’s Fish Center Participates in International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Rwanda

In recognition of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Dr. Shay Pilnik, director of Yeshiva University’s Emil A. and Jenny Fish Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies; and the Center’s founder, Mr. Emil Fish, a holocaust survivor, journeyed to Rwanda to honor the memory of the Holocaust. The unique event allowed two peoples, the Jews and the Rwandans, who have both experienced genocides, to find ways to honor those killed together and promote understanding.

The series of events will conclude on Jan. 27 at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, the ground where the bodies of over 250,000 victims of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide are laid to rest. Starting on April 7, 1994, close to a million people were viciously killed by their neighbors over a 100-day period.

The Rwandans, recognizing that these horrific events have connected them to the Jewish experience, have also held a Holocaust commemoration at the Kigali Genocide Memorial every year on January 27 under the auspices of the United Nations, the Israeli Embassy in Rwanda and Aegis Trust, an international organization dedicated to genocide prevention. This year, YU’s Fish Center was honored to take part in the commemoration with Emil Fish featured as the keynote speaker, offering a testimony of his survival of the Holocaust in Czechoslovakia and the infamous camp Bergen Belsen.

As Emil Fish shared with Freddy Mutanguha,  executive director of Aegis Trust who lost both of his parents and four sisters in the Rwandan Genocide – “if more than fifty years after Auschwitz, after all the measures to ensure that Never Again is a reality, not just words, something so terrible could happen, we must be honest with ourselves and realize —  that we haven’t yet learned the lessons of the Holocaust; perhaps we’ve learned nothing, really. And while this is an uphill battle, we must not despair. And continue — to educate, educate, and educate.”

In addition to the keynote address, Pilnik and Fish also met with local high school students about the importance of remembrance and education. All of these efforts helped spread awareness about the Holocaust and ensure that what happened to six million Jews will never be forgotten.