Southeast Missouri State University will host two Holocaust survivors during its weeklong series of events and activities titled “Hidden Children of the Holocaust,” commemorating “Yom ha-Shoa,” the 2004 Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“Why were so many bystanders and morally indifferent to the genocide referred to as the Holocaust?” said Dr. Mitchel Gerber, Southeast professor of political science. “Why did so few intervene and engage in rescue or resistance efforts?
These are some of the profound ethical questions to be addressed during the weeklong series of events, he said.
Rachel Miller, a Holocaust survivor, will be the keynote speaker of a presentation on Wednesday, April 21, from noon to 1:20 p.m. in the University Center Party Room. Miller was born in France and was a hidden child during the Holocaust. She will speak about her Nazi Holocaust experience, including the time she spent hiding as a child in France during World War II. She will focus on this year’s theme, “Hidden Children of the Holocaust.” She is a speaker for the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center in St. Louis.
Later that day, a Holocaust panel featuring Miller and fellow Holocaust survivor Rudy Oppenheim, along with Gerber, will convene. The panel is scheduled for 3 to 4:30 p.m. in Glenn Auditorium of Robert A. Dempster Hall. Oppenheim was born in Elmshorn, Germany. He will discuss his experiences during the Holocaust, including being compelled to leave an Aryan school as a child, his father being sent to a concentration camp for several weeks after Kristallnacht, and his family’s emigration to Shanghai, China, with 20,000 other German and Austrian Jews after his father’s release. Oppenheim is a docent and speaker at the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center in St. Louis.
In addition to the Wednesday presentations, the film “Weapons of the Spirit” will be shown in the University Center Ballroom on Monday, April 19, at 6 p.m.
This year’s Holocaust commemoration is being sponsored by the Political Theory Club, a Southeast Missouri State University student organization. The presentations and activities are being offered in conjunction with an interdisciplinary upper-level seminar on the Holocaust at Southeast that will be offered again next fall, taught by Gerber.
Gerber said the Holocaust resulted in the deaths of six million Jews by Nazi perpetrators and their collaborators in Nazi extermination camps, mass grave sites and ghettos. The Nazis murdered 1.5 million Jewish children in their promotion of the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question,” he said. An additional five million innocent victims that were categorized as “undesirables” by the Nazis – including gypsies, Jehovah Witnesses, socialists, communists, Poles, homosexuals, disabled persons, resisters and other “enemies of the state” – perished, he said.
“We must never forget the unthinkable human atrocities that occurred during the Holocaust and we must use that knowledge to prevent any acts of contemporary genocide, gross human rights violations or crimes against humanity,” Gerber said.
For more information about Holocaust Remembrance Day or the upper-level seminar to be taught by Gerber next fall, call (573) 651-2694.