International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust is recognized internationally on Jan. 27, the anniversary of the day the Auschwitz death camp was liberated. Seton Hill University’s National Catholic Center for Holocaust Information held an information session in Maura Solarium last Monday where Paul Salmons’ short film “Footprints: Discovering the Holocaust through Historical Artifacts” was shown along with other visuals and activities.
A visual image showing the number of Holocaust victims is displayed in ‘Footprints,’ by focusing on the shoes and other everyday objects of the victims.
“’Footprints’ is focusing on shoes, but it’s like what can you learn from an artifact? You go to a museum, and I don’t think you realize sometimes the impact an artifact can have on you,” said Wilda Kaylor, the associate director for the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education. “Sometimes one [shoe] will stick out, like a red shoe, and you’ll think, ‘Well, that was a young woman.’ Or you see a child’s shoe. And that’s what Paul Salmons does so sensitively, trying to imagine the person and their life.”
For an activity at the event, participants answered the question “What steps are you taking towards preventing prejudice and genocide for a brighter future,” writing their response on a paper footprint and hanging it on a poster in order to create a positive visual.
“It’s when you look at the artifacts, and especially when you see the piles of them, that’s what’s shocking. So for us people can say what they’re going to do, but to actually write it down and put it all together, again that’s something where you can look at and actually see the amount,” said graduate MBA student Katie Vann, who helped with the event.
“There are fewer holocaust survivors and they’re the witnesses, so by having programs and commemorations, it helps keep the memory alive. The same is true with the liberators, there are fewer of them, the soldiers who went in to liberate the camps,” said Kaylor.
“The more removed this tragedy becomes from us in time, and as the survivors pass on, the greater the need to teach the meaning of this history for the present,” wrote Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in a message about the event this year.
“There has been improvement in Holocaust information, it has been a movement, but there’s still more that can be done,” said Kaylor. “And this center through its programming is attempting to educate people and we’re hoping people will attend our programs.”
Jan. 27 was named the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust by the U.N. General Assembly’s resolution A/RES/60/7, which recognizes the Holocaust as a historical event, and condemns “all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief, whenever they occur” according to The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme website.