A Cornell professor and Holocaust survivor shared his story of survival during World War II in a ceremony on Wednesday that commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day. The ceremony, which featured the lighting of six candles to remember the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, was hosted by Cornell Jewish Studies and the Hillel Cultural Programming Committee. Roald Hoffmann, the Frank H. T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters, Emeritus and recipient of the 1981 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, recounted how his family was captured by the Nazis, went into hiding and eventually regained freedom in a period of three years. “First of all, I am here,” Hoffmann said, pointing out that it is already remarkable that he survived the Holocaust and could be present for the Cornell event. Born to a Polish Jewish family in 1937, Hoffmann described his journey from growing up in the bloodlands of Nazi-occupied Poland to becoming a Harvard graduate and a world-renowned chemist.
Ariella Lindenfeld ’18 created “Never Forget,” an exhibit that featured artistic reflections and historical artifacts from the Holocaust. On March 26 newspaper clippings valued at $2,500 went missing from the exhibit.
And Every Single One Was Someone is a 1,000 page-long book that has only one word in it; reproduced more than 6,000,000 times throughout its thin, harrowing pages is the word “Jew.” As an elegy to those who lost their lives to the Holocaust, it imbues the detached, abstract notion of “six million deaths” with a palpable intimacy — a literal weight that physicalizes the immensity of what is arguably humanity’s darkest chapter. I’ve never held a physical copy of the book, but those who have claim that they felt unable to stop turning its pages, encountering the same word repeated over and over, as if the dead were pleading for our remembrance. To represent the Holocaust is to bear witness to an atrocity that eludes any sense of holistic representation. The implicit argument of Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah, a nine-hour documentary constituted entirely of survivors’ testimonials, is that art — despite its beauty and nuance as a means of describing the indescribable — is unable to account for a total representation of murder on such an industrialized scale. It instead posits that the only way we can somewhat comprehend the barbarity of what occurred is by allowing those who endured it to recount their suffering: that the closest we can get to an “objective” understanding is to weave together a tapestry of subjective experiences.
Over winter break, while you were doing something normal like watching the Bill Murray Christmas Special, or something, my friend Zach and I spent two days watching something decidedly more intense: Claude Lanzmann’s 1985 Holocaust documentary, Shoah. To say that one does not watch, but endures, Shoah, Claude Lanzmann’s nine -and-a-half hour documentary about the Holocaust, is not meant to denigrate the film in any way. It is uncompromising, nauseating, obsessive — and required viewing for anyone who wishes to grapple with this stain on human history and the horrifying absence left in its wake. The film comprises of interviews with survivors, witnesses and German perpetrators, as well as footage from Nazi extermination sites in Poland and their surrounding areas. Lanzmann often used hidden cameras and other forms of deception to capture the testimony of those who, for obvious reasons, preferred not to have their role in systematic murder broadcast to international audiences.
As someone who hasn’t even gotten around to seeing Slumdog Millionaire, Milk or The Curious Case of it Benjamin Button — no, not even one of its 165 minutes — I can say that I was very wary of taking time to watch the 80th Academy Award nominees for Best Live Action Short Film (you probably know them as the part of the ceremony during which you flip through the channels).
However, after viewing the nominated shorts, I can now say that these films are phenomenal — not perfect, but definitely worth anyone’s time (plus all five of them take up 65 less minutes of your time than Benjamin Button does, not to mention one of them is not even half the time of an episode of Gossip Girl!).
An anonymous band of students and faculty began to read a list of names yesterday morning at 11 a.m. Although the names were read to the pace of a ticking clock, 24 hours is simply not enough time to name all 6 million on the list.
“Lova Rozenberg, Country of residence: Czechoslovakia. Place of Death: Auschwitz. Year of Death: 1944. Age: 40.”
This was just one of the many names that a young woman read aloud on Ho Plaza yesterday as she went through part of a long list of Holocaust victims. As a way to commemorate and remember those who died, Cornell Hillel organized a Holocaust vigil, in which the names of thousands of Jews killed in the Holocaust are being read for 24 hours straight. The vigil comes just four days before Yom HaShoah, the international Holocaust Remembrance Day.