Nearly 75 years have passed since the end of World War II and the liberation of Auschwitz. Since that time, hundreds of memorials, museums, and other sites (and modes) of remembrance have sprung up across the globe to preserve the memory of those who were killed and to educate citizens about the dark history surrounding the Holocaust. But what does it mean to “remember” a genocide of this magnitude? How do different places, events, and persons depict this painful history? And, what is at stake in the ways we frame our remembrance today? The ability to think critically about what and how we remember is of heightened importance in today’s world as we continue to witness an alarming rise in Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism both in the U.S. and abroad.
During the spring semester of 2019, students in THRS 390: Holocaust, set out to study and document the ways in which Holocaust remembrance comes to life in our own local community. Some visited local Holocaust memorials and museums, analyzing how physical spaces cultivated particular emotional reactions or calls to action. Other students interviewed community members, educators, and memorial designers to understand what drives their work in this area.
In sharing the projects that each team of students created, our class aims to highlight the complex and diverse ways in which the legacy of the Holocaust continues to touch the lives of people in Southern California. This project also took on a deeper significance in April 2019, when–around the same time that Jewish communities across the globe were preparing to come together and observe Yom HaShoah–an armed gunman attacked a synagogue in Poway, California, less than an hour’s drive from our campus. The shooting claimed the life of one woman and left others injured, and it sent shockwaves of fear across our city and the nation as a whole. Our campus community came together for a vigil that week to remember those affected by the shooting, and many of the individuals we crossed paths with through our work on this project were in attendance as well.
Interview with Steven Schindler
This interview features Steven Schindler, the son of two Holocaust survivors, who has become involved in Holocaust remembrance and education initiatives himself. Schindler has been involved with a US-German iteration of the Butterfly Project, an initiative that uses art, stories, and memorial-making to cultivate empathy and educate younger generations about the dangers of bigotry. You can read more about Schindler’s work here.
Interview with Powell Brothers
This interview features Mark and Frank Powell, two brothers who submitted a proposal in 2016 to build a Holocaust liberation memorial on the Embarcadero in downtown San Diego. Their proposal was later rejected by the Port of San Diego’s Arts Advisory Committee. In this film, the brothers describe their vision and rationale for the proposed site as well as their reactions to its rejection.
Interview with Sister Tobie Tondi
This interview features Sr. Tobie Tondi, SHCJ, STD. Sr. Tondi is now a retired professor of Theology and Religious Studies who used to teach the course, “Holocaust: Religious Questions,” at the University of San Diego. This film centers around the theme of Holocaust education.
Holocaust Memorial Garden (La Jolla, CA)
This short film contains footage of the Holocaust Memorial Garden located in La Jolla, California. The garden was dedicated in April 2000 and includes three main walls: 1) the Wall of Names, which lists the names of 700 Holocaust victims who each have a surviving relative in San Diego; 2) a wall listing the names of Holocaust survivors who were living in San Diego when the memorial was created; and, 3) a wall that traces the history of the Holocaust from 1933-1945 and lists the names of the concentration and labor camps. A special stone remembers the Righteous Among the Nations, non-Jews who risked their own lives to protect their Jewish neighbors.
Interviews with Student Visitors to LAMOTH
This film gauges the reactions of three USD students to their first visit to LAMOTH in Los Angeles, CA. The interviewees highlight which parts of the museum stood out the most to them and why they feel museums like this are important in today’s world.
Interviews with Members of USD Hillel
This film highlights the forms and significance of Holocaust remembrance in the lives of three student members of USD Hillel. More broadly, these students also address the need for organizations like Hillel on college campuses–perhaps especially Catholic universities like USD–to help Jewish students feel a sense of community and pride in their identity.
For a full list of the projects created as part of this class, please visit our YouTube playlist available here.