americans and the holocaust

Peperzak spoke to Julia Thompson about her story at the event. 

A special event associated with the Americans and the Holocaust Exhibit was on display in Foley Library as Gonzaga University hosted a panel on Sept. 8 in the John J. Hemmingson Center ballroom. The gathering was the lone formal event showcasing the exhibit at GU and featured speakers, including Holocaust survivor Carla Peperzak, GU history professor Kevin O’Connor and members of the Holocaust Center for Humanity.

GU students and community members assembled in anticipation to learn more about formative events that happened during the Holocaust and to increase understanding of the atrocities committed during World War II.

“The perspectives it will bring, and the firsthand experience were really interesting to me,” GU student Lindsey Kwate said. “Especially since everything you see on social media is blown up, so getting that firsthand experience on historical topics is really beneficial.”

The event began with an opening welcome from Rabbi Elizabeth Goldstein, who welcomed the audience and invited a special engagement with the presentation. U.S. Attorney Vanessa Waldref was subsequently invited onstage and spoke about the lasting effects of the Holocaust as one of the most devastating occurrences in human history.

Following her remarks was a historical presentation provided by O’Connor, who imparted a crucial backdrop for the information being discussed by the various speakers — he also spoke to the ways in which the impacts of the Holocaust were felt and perceived in America during the war.

The featured speaker, Peperzak, followed O’Connor with an  interview conducted by Julia Thompson, a program manager for the Holocaust Center for Humanity. They delved into Peperzak’s story, displaying primary artifacts and discussing her experiences.

“It reaches beyond the Jewish community," said GU student Gabriela Marquis. "This is about the Holocaust, but it's also about hate in general and discrimination. And so by showing such support for one marginalized group, you are also branching out and reaching out to others.”

Peperzak lived in Amsterdam and was intimately familiar with the brutality of the Nazi party. She was active in the Resistance during the war, helping nearly 40 people obtain supplies, IDs and a hiding place from the Nazis. Now a resident of Washington state since 2004, Peperzak has been honored as “Person of the Year” for her bravery and heroic actions in Holland.

The interview with Thompson and Peperzak was followed by remarks from Kristine Hoover, associate director of the Institute for Hate Studies at GU, which concluded the event. She emphasized that now more than ever, Americans need awareness and initiative to combat hate.

Students recognized the importance of GU hosting events like this to build awareness and fight ignorance in a meaningful way.

“Gonzaga is such an institution in Spokane, in an area rife with the rise of white supremacy," said GU senior Brayden Dini. "For it to not speak out is inhumane. If we really want to keep our mission statement, we need to do things like this that uplift marginalized voices to make sure that something like this never does happen again.”

Anders Svenningsen is the opinion editor. Follow him on Twitter: @torvauld.

Opinion Editor

Anders Svenningsen is a junior from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This is his first semester of being an opinion editor after serving as a staff writer the past four semesters.