White Rose Society

 Fifteen thousand march in solidarity from Auschwitz to Birkenau last April in the annual March of the Living.

Photo Credit: Jason Epstein | Staff writer

Similar to the sound of a tornado warning in the states, two sirens will pierce the air in Israel in the next 24 hours, bringing traffic and society to a standstill.

But these will not be calls of warning. These two sirens, one Wednesday evening and one Thursday morning, will call for a moment of silence, solemnity and reflection on Yom HaShoah, the Israeli and Jewish Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Today, Israel commemorates each life lost in the mass murder of over 6 million Jews. In Israel, the sirens prompt civilians to recognize the holiday and observe it appropriately. Public entertainment shuts down for the day and radio and television programs switch over to oral accounts from the camps and similar Holocaust programs to re-educate viewers on the appalling events that occurred throughout Europe.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day, observed by many countries including America, occurs in late January. But on April 8, thousands of people on the 40 Acres took flowers in commemoration. Organized by the White Rose Society, volunteers from different organizations distributed 10,000 white roses — representing the number of people killed in Auschwitz each day during the Holocaust.

The war ended nearly 70 years ago and the number of Holocaust survivors left decreases by the year. These survivors, well into their seventies or eighties at the very least, may not physically be around for our children and grandchildren to meet.

But their memories will live on.

Just last year, I did not observe Yom HaShoah in the comfort of my home or even my hometown. Instead, I marched. I marched among 15,000 others from countries ranging from Brazil to the United Kingdom to Panama and even Germany. We marched almost two miles from Auschwitz, a work camp, to Birkenau, the largest extermination center built and operated by the Nazis. 

Standing in the middle of Birkenau, I decided no sane human could ever fathom the extremity of the mass murders committed during the war. The deaths of Jews, Roma, homosexuals and other oppressed minorities amount to about 11 million, according to the El Paso Holocaust Museum. UT is a large public university, but this death toll totals over 200 times the number of undergraduate and graduate students on campus. And when you try to put the millions into perspective, one number cannot define the individuals who perished. Rather, try to use basic arithmetic to add one plus one plus one plus… until you inevitably give up out of frustration.

As I stood alongside a survivor of 86 years old and listened to his stories, I became a witness. I became a source of information to make sure that the stories live on, that his story lives on.

Like everyone holding a rose last week, we must continue to preserve the memories of the survivors — not just for the future, but for today.

We live in America, a first-world country with freedoms unimaginable to citizens in most places around the world, but we need to recognize and address genocides happening worldwide. History is repeating itself, and we cannot stand idly by, like many did during the Holocaust.

While we will not be able to hear the sirens in Israel nor experience the camps from our dorm room, I encourage you to seek out such videos and articles online. And still today, in the 21st century, the everlasting message persists: Never forget.

Epstein is a Plan II and journalism freshman from Dallas. Follow Epstein on Twitter @jwepstein96.

In the final event of an on-campus human rights lecture series, government professor Paula Newberg said, despite the efforts of Pakistan’s human rights activists, the country still faces significant security risks.

“You look at a place like Pakistan, which is really my second home, in a way, and a place that I care about very deeply,” said Newberg, the chair in Pakistan studies and a former special advisor to the United Nations. “You’ll find a society where politicians now die for defending the rights of others, where journalists are in danger for telling the truth, where militancy has overtaken the capacity of the state to enforce legitimate order and where compromise has overtaken a clear view of the protectant mission of the state.”  

Newberg said states cannot succeed when they commit human rights violation against their own people.

“I have worked across Asia and Africa and Europe, and I have yet to find a state that can sustain itself and flourish when it persecutes or starves or ignores its own people,” Newberg said. 

Newberg’s lecture was part of the White Rose Society’s series “Overcoming Hatred: A Human Rights Symposium.” The society was founded in World War II by a group of German students resisting Nazi Germany with non-violent intellectual methods, which ultimately led to the executions of many of its members.

History professor Sumit Guha said the original members of the society stood against Nazi Germany despite the possible consequences.

“It’s an example to all of us in our time — I think [the members] just felt they needed to make a stand regardless of what the ultimate outcome was,” Guha said. “For all that they could calculate about the future, they could have perished completely unknown, so it’s one of those gestures of resistance that doesn’t even necessarily assume that there’s success.”

Kolby Lee, government senior and co-president of STAND, a student organization advocating against genocide, said the organization takes after the mission of the White Rose Society.

“We’ve really kind of taken from [the White Rose Society’s] message and so a lot of what our organization at UT does is A, Holocaust remembrance but B, more broadly, genocide awareness,” Lee, who introduced Newberg at the lecture, said. “We’re a core chapter of a large national student lead movement called STAND, and STAND really focuses on issues — mass atrocities all over the world.”

Newberg said that human rights violations can be precursors to larger governmental collapse.

“If you think about it, any country that abuses the rights of free expression or the rights of free association, you find that it is a country that may well be on the verge of imploding,” Newberg said.

Lupe, a Kinsolving Housing and Food employee, picks up a few roses as part of 10,000 Roses, an event hosted by UT’s White Rose Society that promoted awareness about genocide worldwide through remembrance of the Holocaust.   

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

Students carrying white roses around campus were a part of a rose parade to promote awareness of genocide and commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. 

While it may have happened roughly 70 years ago, the memory of the Holocaust is still very relevant for members of The White Rose Society, an organization seeking to promote awareness on genocide and human rights. The UT chapter of the society annually hosts the 10,000 Roses Project and passes out roses to students around campus to honor the victims of the Holocaust.         

“We will not be silent,” said Tramanh Hoang, president of the UT Austin White Rose Society. “With this project, we hope to spread more awareness about genocides of the past, especially the Holocaust.”

Ten thousand people were killed everyday at the German concentration camp, Auschwitz, said Hoang. One rose is equal to one life lost in the concentration camp, which helps students realize how a genocide of that scale could affect one in five of the 50,000 students on campus. The rose also serves to promote a human rights symposium hosted by the White Rose Society next week, which will include human rights speakers. 

By using the roses to spread awareness on genocide and human rights, students are given a visual reminder of the thousands of lives lost in the Holocaust.

“It is hard to get attention,” said Robert Abzug, history professor and former faculty advisor of the White Rose Society. “But the issues are there and people go to the events.” 

Abzug said through the 10,000 Roses Project, the White Rose Society does more than just remember the Holocaust and its effects. 

“They call attention to current crises and human rights,” said Abzug. “Action is greater than remembrance.”

Students who received roses had a better sense of understanding of the issue at hand after seeing it on a smaller scale.

“It makes you realize just how many people were impacted and harmed by the Nazis’ actions,” said electrical engineering sophomore Keldon Lou.

The White Rose Society originated at the University of Munich when a group of students were rioting against the Holocaust in 1942 and 1943. Students at UT wanted to raise awareness, so they started the current chapter, now sponsored by Texas Hillel, a Jewish life center off campus.

Students from the White Rose Society sort white roses in March of 2012 on the West Mall.

Photo Credit: Sa Wang | Daily Texan Staff

University students are working to prevent future genocide by promoting consciousness about the Holocaust.

The White Rose Society, a student organization focused on Holocaust remembrance and genocide prevention, passed out white roses at three different locations on campus Thursday as part of their annual 10,000 Roses event to raise awareness of the Holocaust and other genocides. The White Rose Society is named after a student organization at the University of Munich whose members were murdered after they denounced the Nazi Holocaust, Shomya Tripathy, advocacy events coordinator for the organization said.

The organization’s event began eight years ago with only 500 roses passed out, but has grown to 10,000 roses representing the number of people killed in a single day at the Auschwitz extermination camp in Poland during World War II.

“We are trying to promote remembrance of the Holocaust in order to connect to modern day genocides,” Tripathy said. “We are following in their motto ‘we will not be silent.’ We are speaking out to remind people that we said ‘never again’ and we plan to hold that to be true.”

Julie Johnson, philosophy senior and president of the Chabad Jewish Student Organization, said events that promote Holocaust remembrance and awareness are of the upmost importance.

There are 4,800 Jewish students enrolled at the University, according to Hillel, a foundation for Jewish campus life. Various student organizations, activist groups, Jewish associations and multiple synagogues make up the Jewish community in Austin.

“I cannot remember a time I didn’t know about the Holocaust, but I know there are people who have limited exposure to it,” Johnson said. “There are more and more Holocaust survivors passing away, and it is increasingly important to remind people of the tragic events.”

Naomi Lindstrom, associate director of the University’s Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies, also passed out roses in her office. Lindstrom said the best way to remember the Holocaust after its remaining survivors are gone is through their stories.

“It’s important to preserve the memories of remaining survivors and more broadly heighten people’s awareness of the general phenomenon of genocide,” she said.

Lindstrom said the initiative does not just focus on Jewish victims of the Holocaust, but also touches on the broad concept of genocide. Raising awareness about the past should empower individuals to respond proactively if they realize genocide is developing or occurring somewhere.

“Do you want to just read about it in the news, or do you take action and try to prevent it from spreading on a widespread level?” Lindstrom said. “It’s something to keep in mind while remembering the Holocaust.”

Printed on Friday, March 30, 2012 as: Students recognize Holocaust victims with 10,000 roses