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Trip to New Haven Holocaust Memorial helps students remember the lost
Friday, May 25, 2012 By Alexandra Sanders, Register Staff
NEW HAVEN — As Jews walked into Aushwitz, mine cars left, traveling from the ovens to an open streambed to dump the ashes.
But one survivor collected a shoebox-full of ashes and it now sits buried in the center of the Holocaust Memorial in the city, according to Mike Romeo, member of the Holocaust Preservation Committee.
The shoebox is surrounded by a concrete Star of David that forms the base of the memorial on Whalley Avenue. Jutting skyward from the ground and surrounding the shoebox are curved metal beams with symbolic barbed wire that represent Jewish imprisonment. Six center yew trees memorialize the six million murdered Jews and dotting the memorial are 18 plaques symbolizing the 18 different camps. Two bushes, whose planters are adorned with plaques, sit near the memorial to honor rescuers and others who died at the hands of the Nazis.
This week, 90 students from Metropolitan Business Academy who have been studying the Holocaust, put down “Night” by Elie Wiesel, and took a trip to the memorial. Standing in the rain, dozens of kids surrounded the memorial and examined the plaques adorning it.
“Me being here is really special. One of my family members passed away in the Holocaust so just being here makes me remember them a lot,” said Metropolitan freshman Richard Thomas, 15. “If you ask me, this memorial isn’t just about memory but about survival and power of those people.”
Freshman Daniel Valerio, 15, added “I find it really powerful to come here and see this beautiful monument and the names of all of these camps etched in stone forever. It’s really strong.”
With Memorial Day approaching, Romeo said it was an important time for the students to visit the memorial and remember those lost. He explained to the students that remembering Holocaust victims helped drive the idea to build the memorial.
Romeo said that in 1967, about 70 families in the New Haven area decided to construct a memorial for the loved ones they lost. Every week, each family donated $1 per week to purchase the memorial materials and in 1977, the memorial was built.
Once it was established, it offered a place for the families to say Kaddish, a prayer said during Jewish mourning rituals. Another part of Jewish tradition calls for stones to be placed on graves to honor the dead. Ann Brillante, magnet resource officer, passed out stones to students one by one Tuesday and told them to think about something they learned about the Holocaust while finding an appropriate place for the stone.
Beyond just honor, Romeo said the memorial was a mitzvah for the dead. It did something that the dead could not do – make a statement and ensure that the Holocaust is never forgotten.
“Now there are so few people alive from the Holocaust,” said Thomas. “It’s really important to have places like this to remember them and to really know what it was about.”
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