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Saint Mary’s to commemorate Kristallnacht anniversary

Megan Loney | Tuesday, November 11, 2008

This week, Saint Mary’s chapter of the White Rose Society is commemorating the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, when over 20,000 men were sent to concentration camps. Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, is known as the event that marked the beginning of the Holocaust.

The Saint Mary’s White Rose Society is the second chapter of this group in the United States – the first is at the University of Texas-Austin. Senior Sarah Testa, president of the White Rose Society chapter at Saint Mary’s, discovered the group in a class her junior year.

“I took a class on the Second World War where the White Rose was briefly mentioned in conjunction with other resistance groups,” Testa said. “The name struck me so I looked it up and I found out there was an incredible story few knew about.”

After learning that the University of Texas-Austin had a student-run White Rose Society, Testa contacted them to receive information about the group. Although Testa worked on the idea her junior year, the chapter was not formally recognized until the beginning of this school year, said Testa.

“Currently, there are 60 official members in the chapter,” Testa said, “but people are always expressing interest in joining. There are a lot of first years and sophomores involved in the chapter, which hopefully means that it can continue on past this year.”

The modern White Rose Society has applied the ideas of the original White Rose Society, but integrated them with issues that are prevalent today.

“The Saint Mary’s White Rose Society seeks to honor to actions of the original White Rose, remember the Holocaust and speak out against current human rights abuses,” Testa said. “Right now we have a marriage of Holocaust remembrance and activism for Darfur, Burma and the Congo.”

Testa worked closely faculty members involved in the planning of last year’s Kristallnacht Commemor-ation. She said she feels it is important to mark the anniversary of the start of the Holocaust and to make sure that the memory of the Holocaust does not die.

“It’s easy to say that the world will not forget the Holocaust,” Testa said, “but it’s actually more of an issue than many realize. In our lifetimes, those personally affected by the Holocaust will perish. In addition, people are actually denying that the Holocaust ever existed. These things are such dangers to Holocaust remembrance that now, more than ever before, we need to commemorate and remember.”

Events to mark the anniversary of the start of the Holocaust began Sunday with a viewing of “Sophie Scholl: The Final Days,” a documentary about one of the original members of the White Rose Society, college student Sophie Scholl. Scholl stood up to the Nazis and was executed for her involvement with the Society along with two other members.

The commemoration continued Monday with showing of Testa’s personal interview with Holocaust survivor Jacob Hennenberg, shown during lunch at the Student Lounge. She said she first met Hennenberg when she was 13.

“When I was 13, I wanted a Holocaust survivor to come speak at my grade school,” she said. “I contacted a synagogue and met Jacob Hennenberg. Mr. Hennen-berg came to speak, and we remained in contact with one another throughout my high school career.”

This past summer, Hennenberg agreed to preserve his personal story on tape for the White Rose Society. This personal interview will also be shown Tuesday, same place and time.

Monday evening in Vander Vennet Theater, David Stefancic, an associate professor of history, introduced “Cabaret,” a film set in Berlin in 1931. After showing the movie, Stefancic led a discussion about the subjects presented in the film.

The Kristallnacht commemoration ends Tuesday night with a viewing of “Hotel Rwanda” at 7p.m. in Vander Vennet Theater. Edith Miguda, assistant professor of history, will introduce the movie and lead a discussion after the viewing.

For the commemoration, the White Rose Society will be giving away white roses to remind people of the importance of the anniversary. Allied Cut Flowers, a company in Cleveland, donated the 500 roses that will be given away.