SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Schriever Airmen observed Days of Remembrance at the fitness center, Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Aug. 16, to recognize Holocaust survivors and the more than 6 million European Jews and 11 million others who died as a result of Nazi persecution in World War II.
Schriever AFB hosted the event to increase awareness of the Holocaust and encourage thoughtful discussion. Although it is typically observed in April, Schriever AFB observes it in August to coincide with Diversity Day.
Maj. Michael Bram, U.S. Air Force Academy chaplain and rabbi, began the event by reading a prayer. He said though his prayer focused on the European Jews who endured the Holocaust, there were other victims.
“It is important to remember this wasn’t just a crime against Jews, though we were the prime target. It was a crime against humanity,” Bram said. “I’ve been told only about 41 percent of Americans are aware of Auschwitz, and if that is close to accurate, it should be 100 percent.”
Col. James Smith, 50th Space Wing commander, followed Bram with opening remarks that emphasized the importance of recalling the tragic event, the victims and those who fought against Nazi persecution.
“Today’s event helps us to remember not only the oppressed, but also those who ultimately helped with the liberation of the concentration camps, and the defeat of tyranny,” Smith said.
Smith left those in attendance with a question to think on as they walked through the displays: “How are you working to connect with the Airmen around you and respect those who may be different from you?”
After Smith’s remarks participants sampled Mediterranean fare and explored the exhibits.
Todd Hennessay, Colorado Holocaust Educators director and educator, and guest speaker for the event, provided an informative presentation on the history of the Holocaust and the work happening to record the accounts of survivors to preserve the information for future generations.
He also said more historical evidence has surfaced in the last five years than in the previous 45 years.
“The greatest generation is passing on and a lot of service members from that time collected photographs and documented meeting survivors, or in some cases perpetrators, and when they came home all of that would go into a box,” Hennessay said.
Hennessay explained because these boxes are being opened, stories are being found and it has shifted the focus of how information is being obtained and preserved.
“What we are starting to focus on now is not the killing process, but the personal process,” he said. “One of the most poignant pieces to this history is looking at the individual. We can talk about the big numbers: how many were murdered, how many were in this camp, how many were in that ghetto – but when you look at the individual, there is so much to learn.”
Hennessay closed his presentation by showing participants an image of a Star of David pendent found in a field in Latvia.
“Victims would take their personal items, the most prized items they could still hold, and throw them into the forests and fields rather than let the Nazi’s get ahold of them, hoping that someday we would find them,” he said.
Senior Airman Rodnecia Perry, 50th Security Forces Squadron entry controller and event volunteer, said she got involved with the event to learn more about the Holocaust.
“I feel the team who put the event together and the guest speaker did a great job,” Perry said. “Before, all I knew was [the Holocaust] was a mass murder of Jews. Through this event, I learned about the views that led to the mass murders and the human aspect of the victims and survivors,” she said.