The 2014 State of North Carolina Holocaust Commemoration was held on Sunday at Meredith College in Raleigh, and four Starmount High School students won awards for their hard work and heartfelt contributions at the ceremony.
The theme of the commemoration was “Resistance and Heroism in the Holocaust” and was illustrated through dramatic vignettes and choral performances.
Guest speaker was Barbara Ledermann Rodbell, who fled Germany with her family in 1933 for Amsterdam, where she became friends with Margot and Anne Frank. Rodbell was able to pass as a Gentile and work with the resistance to protect hidden Jews during the war.
Starmount High School teacher Katie Zepp said, “The ceremony itself was a series of performances, lectures, testimonies from survivors (one who was friends with Anne Frank) and memorial prayers/speeches from U.S. House members, rabbis, students, scholars and teachers.” There was also the annual candle lighting ceremony.
Starmount student Lauren Stone won for her contribution in the Visual Art category. Callie Markenke and Isabella Baity won in the Performance Art category, and Allanah Kenyon in the Writing (Poetry) category.
Zepp said a visit to the North Carolina Holocaust Commemoration Memorial inspired her to lead class lectures and explore lessons on the Holocaust and their relevance. The Starmount class under Kepp read from the book, “Night” by Elie Wiesel. The book is about Wiesel’s experience with his father in the Nazi German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald in 1944-1945.
For her submission, Stone did a painting that explored the cost of silence during the Holocaust and illustrated lessons that are also universal in the area of genocide.
Kenyon did a series of reflections from a survivor’s diary, with the message that “our experiences are important in that we have a responsibility to share them with others.” General lessons involving discrimination or hatred in any form, no matter how small were illustrated in their harmful and dangerous potential, said Zepp. Kenyon’s reflections portrayed the power of standing up for what is right regardless of what others are doing.
Markenke and Baity wrote a song, in a production and performance effort. The song and performance explored the theme of survival and courage and the importance of holding on to faith in order to get through difficult experiences. Markenke played a guitar and sang to a packed house that included Holocaust survivors.
The song was entitled “One Day” and is from a Jewish perspective on being an individual in a concentration camp waiting for liberation and overcoming obstacles to hold on to hope. The hope portrayed is to see God’s throne room one day in heaven. Will there ever be healing from Hitler’s order’s orders is a defining question. The song also deals with the struggles of daily living in the concentration camp and the sadness of witnessing children burning in a fire. “When it will end, but tomorrow is a new day and they might be set free,” are questions intermingled with hope in the Markenke and Baity song and production.
Everybody in the place was shedding tears, said Zepp.
Zepp said every student had to do a project that dealt with the study of the Holocaust for a class grade, and as a result there were students who wanted to submit projects at the North Carolina Commemoration Ceremony where they received the awards.
Zepp said as her high school class started to ask deep questions, more unraveled. Questions were explored such as, “Why do we look at differences as being negative? What does that lead to?” It was eye-opening for them, stated Kepp.
The UN General Assembly designated Jan. 27 — the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau — as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this annual day of commemoration, the UN urges every member state to honor the victims of the Nazi era and to develop educational programs to help prevent future genocides.
Tanya Chilton may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @TanyaTDC.