Jewish students commemorate Holocaust

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pekcan_stdA dozen Cal State Fullerton students marched through campus Monday afternoon to the Titan Walk, wearing black shirts with signs reading “Never forget,” to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day, which ended at sunset.

As they settled at a bench at the Titan Walk near the TitanShops bookstore, the group’s spokesman, Jevon Tabar, 22, a student in the English teaching program, blared his loudspeaker and climbed on the bench.

“Attention,” Tabar said through the loudspeaker. “To every person there is a name,” he began, as he read a list of a few of the people who were killed in the Holocaust.

Following the names, the group held a moment of silence for those who were killed.

Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom Hashoah in Hebrew, commemorates the estimated 6 million Jews and others who were killed during World War II.

This year marked the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, a Jewish resistance within the Warsaw Ghetto where 13,000 Jews were killed in 1943 in an attempt to oppose German control.

The event on campus was sponsored by B’nai B’rith International, a Jewish advocacy group, and Alpha Epsilon Pi, the campus’ Jewish fraternity, Tabar said.

“This is something that we do every year on campus,” Tabar said.

The fraternity, which was founded about five years ago, has 16 members at CSUF and about 11,000 members internationally, according to David Feldman, 25, a business administration major who participated in the memorial.

About 100 Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternities held similar Holocaust memorials at campuses across the U.S. on Monday, Feldman said.

“For me, it’s a day where we try to remember those lost, non-Jews and Jews alike, who were lost in the Holocaust,” Tabar said.

Tabar said the remembrance helps something like the Holocaust not happen again.

“We (want to) just always remember and never forget about what happened,” Tabar said.

One of the participants in the remembrance day has a very special connection to the Holocaust.

“My grandfather, Shaia, is a survivor of the Holocaust,” said Ben Taitz, 21, a psychology major. “He managed to escape (a concentration camp) and he is still alive today but the rest of his family died in the Holocaust in mass graves.”

Taitz, who is vice president for CSUF’s Jewish club Hillel, said he is named after his grandfather’s brother, Benjamin, who died in the mass graves in Latvia, where their Jewish family is from.

His grandfather, now 89, was just 16 when he was put into a concentration camp. He was put into forced labor because he was the youngest, Taitz said.

Shaia Taitz was eventually transferred to Dachau in southern Germany, one of the fiercest camps, but managed to escape when an Allied bombing blew a hole in the wall of the prison, Taitz said.

He stole a uniform from a dead German soldier and escaped into the woods, where he was picked up by an Allied army who were on their way to liberate the camp, Taitz said.

Dachau, the first permanent concentration camp, was set up by the Nazis less than two months after Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor in 1933. According to the camp’s memorial website, 41,500 people were killed there.

Taitz said he believes it is important to not forget the Holocaust.

“People think ‘Oh, what happened to those people won’t happen to us.’ But it does happen to everyone at one point in history or another,” Taitz said. “History is not kind to its subjects.”

Taitz said he visits his grandfather, who now lives in Israel, every year and Skypes with him every weekend.

“He wants us to remember the story, he wants us to remember our family who did not have a chance to live and have children of their own,” Taitz said.

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