On April 11, a Holocaust survivor spoke about her mission to spread awareness during the Yom HaShoah memorial service at CLU’s Samuelson Chapel.
Each year, California Lutheran University’s Office of Campus Ministry hosts a special service for Yom HaShoah. Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, honors the lives of the six million Jewish people who died in the Holocaust. During the ceremony, University Village resident Clara Knopfler spoke about her imprisonment in the concentration camps and her life after she was liberated.
“In the beginning it was hard. I didn’t speak [about what happened] for 17 years,” said Knopfler.
Knopfler and her mother were the only survivors out of their 39 family members.
“Faith and hope kept us alive,” she said.
During the ceremony, a traditional Hebrew prayer for Yom HaShoah was read and the traditional Jewish prayer of mourning was sung. Also, a clip of a documentary about Knopfler and Mikul Mark, another survivor, was played. CLU’s broadcast news production class created the documentary this semester.
The professor of the production class, David Grannis, said it was a rewarding project for his students since many of them were unaware of what happened during the Holocaust.
“I think it was a great experience for the students who hadn’t really heard the story firsthand before,” said Grannis.
Once the final video is complete, it will be archived in the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and posted on CLUecho.com.
Grannis said this project had two goals: To give his class the experience of interviewing Holocaust survivors and to help spread history.
“Since they have such a powerful story, we thought it was important to capture it,” said Grannis. “It was a way to keep their story alive.”
Junior Michelle Mocalis, treasurer of the campus Hillel Club, which explores Jewish culture, spirituality and ethics, attended the chapel service and said that being able to see a survivor speak in person was very powerful and emotional. She said that Knopfler’s message about the importance of coexistence can be found all over campus.
“I think that’s just a very significant part of what our university offers to people,” said Mocalis.
CLU Rev. Melissa Maxwell-Doherty hopes the Yom HaShoah services and survivor speeches will help the community become more aware of other violence in the world.
“As we hear stories, maybe we will take action to work against violence in our community and the whole world,” said Maxwell-Doherty.
She said that she sees the stories as a sign of hope, even though they aren’t light conversation.
“It’s hard to listen to and to see that’s our history,” said Maxwell-Doherty. “You can read history in books, and we should and we do, but to see the face of history, to shake her hand, to hear her voice, to hear that story makes history come alive.”
Knopfler has dedicated her life to telling her story so future generations will never forget the Holocaust. She believes coexistence is possible when people not only tolerate one another, but accept the differences between themselves.
“Fight against hatred, those who hate and those who are hated. Fight against prejudice. Fight against injustice. Don’t be a bystander, be an up-stander,” said Knopfler.
Published April 17, 2013