MC Hosts Holocaust Commemoration

Shelton Fitch. Staff Writer

On March 27, Montgomery College held its annual Holocaust Commemoration which was presented by the Paul Peck Humanities Institute in the Rockville campus Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center. The event featured music, talks from two Holocaust survivors, student read biographies and a candle lighting ceremony.

The evening started out as guests arrived at the Performing Arts Center. Holocaust Survivors and their families were amongst the first to arrive. Many people from the county as well as students and staff of Montgomery College were amongst the attendees as well. There was a variety of foods available for guests to eat, most of which was Kosher. Food included falafel, hummus, pita bread and fresh fruits. Guests were greeted by students who handed out programs of the evening’s events and buttons which read in Hebrew, “remember.” Guests were also greeted by the warmth of the Montgomery College staff that ran the event, trying to make everyone feel at home.

As the evening progressed, the solemn tone grew stronger. The guests were asked to move into the auditorium and take their seats. The ceremony kicked off as Sara Ducey, Interim Director of the Paul Peck Humanities Institute introduced herself and some important guests in the audience. Shortly thereafter, about 16 Montgomery College students read brief biographies of Holocaust survivors and people who lost their lives. Their readings were accompanied by a presentation with a photograph of the person they were reading about. After the biographies were read regarding the horrible and devastating experiences of individuals who suffered the most in the Holocaust, music from two Montgomery College students followed to smooth out the evening’s tone. Traditional Jewish pieces were performed on the violin as well as the violoncello.

After the semi-uplifting music was played on the harmonious strings, first account discussions with two Holocaust survivors followed. Professor Kenneth Jassie led the discussion with two individuals, Edith Lowry and Emanuel Mandel, both active volunteers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., and Holocaust survivors themselves. A variety of topics were covered, including Lowry’s despairing experience at a concentration camp where she was separated from her family, and Mandel’s memories of being forced to leave his home in Hungary. Both of their stories were felt by the audience, as many people started to tear up and even cry as Lowry, 83, told her memories of losing her only brother who was 11 years old. When asked about what message they wanted to give to the audience, they both stressed the fact that we must learn from our history and make sure not to repeat atrocities such as this. Mandel in particular stressed that the Jewish Holocaust was not the only time something like this has happened. Even after World War II, atrocities and mass murders still continued to occur. Karen Delgado, a student at Montgomery College as well as a student reader that night said, “When Edith said her last statement I started crying. I thought about all the things that happened in our history and I thought of our generation and how we can change the world.”  This sentiment was felt by many at the ceremony. People didn’t leave sad or depressed, they left with a greater sense of self-worth, that we all have a role in this world to make a difference no matter how small.

This was the message that both these survivors wanted to explain. Cherish the people you love, and do what is right. “I liked the event. Having the experience to meet the people that went through the Holocaust was a great experience,” said Alex Fontes, a student at Montgomery College, as well as a student volunteer that night. “It was something people need to know about. It is part of our history.” Whatever the impact that night, Montgomery College, as well as the Paul Peck Humanities Institute hosted a very nice evening that ended with a candle lighting ceremony to remember and honor the ones who lost their lives during this dark period of history.