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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Flag planting pays tribute to Holocaust victims

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KINGSTON, R.I. – April 28, 2011 – Always Remember. Never Forget.

That was the message being delivered by members of the University of Rhode Island Hillel Center as they planted flags outside the Multicultural Center Wednesday in remembrance of Holocaust victims. Each of the hundreds of flags planted represented 5,000 people who died during the Holocaust.

“Planting the flags is a significant gesture, because it is so hard for many people today to truly grasp just how many people were affected by the Holocaust,” said freshman Lily Nieto.

More than six million Jewish people were killed during World War II at the hands of Nazi Germany. The genocide resulted in death for more than two-thirds of the European Jewish population.

As part of the planting, there were flags of different colors planted, with each color representing different groups impacted. Flags representing 3.3 million Soviets, 2 million Polish people, 400,000 gypsies and other groups were planted.

“A lot of people don’t realize that it was not just Jews who were killed,” Nieto said.

Junior Josh Einhorn, who served as the student chair for the center’s Holocaust Remembrance Week events, said it was important to encourage inquiry into events such as the flag planting.

“We do this every year so that people will stop and ask, ‘Why?’” he said. “It helps spread an understanding of the Holocaust and how it continues to impact so many people today.”

Over the summer, Einhorn spent 10 days visiting various sites in Israel as part of his birthright. Among his stops was Yad Vashem, a Holocaust memorial. One of the this he brought back from that visit was the idea to have students taking turns reading names of Holocaust victims out loud as the flags were planted.

“We are just using one binder of the victim’s names today,” Einhorn said. “Each time they read the list (in Israel), it takes several weeks of saying the names non-stop until they reach the end of the list, and then start over.”

Another exhibit he came across was a pile of children’s shoes that the visitors had to walk over. The shoes represented all of the children killed in the Holocaust.

“It was eye opening,” Einhorn said. “There were enough shoes to pile up to the ceiling of any average room. When you realize those were the children killed, it adds a whole new perspective.”