The lights were dim and the mood somber in Leonard Theater as the Walking Theater Project performed a short theatrical piece, drawing Miami University’s first Holocaust Awareness and Remembrance Program to a close.
More than 150 students crowded into the theater Monday night, while Miami students performed an original piece especially created for the remembrance week.
The presentation juxtaposed a collection of video interviews with Miami students and faculty, alongside footage and photographs of World War II Nazi concentration camps. The presentation also featured dramatic monologues showcasing the lives of modern day Jewish students.
“All the generations (of Jewish people) after the Holocaust were essentially baptized by it,” said Eric Greenberg, a Jewish Miami student whose interview was featured in the production. “I’m constantly thinking about it.”
At the end of the performance, actors walked out of the theater holding candles to symbolize the six million Jews, as well as the five million other victims, killed during the Holocaust. Looking into the audience, they spoke simply saying, “You are the hope.”
The Walking Theater Project is a group of about 25 Miami students, created to be a student-run social activist theater group on campus.
Working in collaboration with other student groups, the company sought to respectfully portray the events of the Holocaust by first interviewing many Jewish Miami students.
“Through reflection, thought and storytelling, I am able to create a ‘living memory’ for the Jewish students of Miami that I interviewed,” said Beth Stelling, an actor in the Walking Theater Project.
The evening performance came after a lecture earlier in the day by architecture and interior design professor Gerardo Brown-Manrique titled, “Lives Lost, Lives Saved: Victor FÃ¼rth, Rudolf FrÃ¤nkel, Their Families, and Their Clients, in Interwar and Wartime Europe.”
Evoking emotions, Brown-Manrique discussed the lives of the two architects who were caught up in the Holocaust. Both FÃ¼rth and FrÃ¤nkel eventually became Miami professors in 1949 and 1950.
Taking place in 001 Alumni Hall, the lecture was attended by about 25 students, faculty and community members.
“Their lives and the lives of their clients illustrate how a diverse group of people were persecuted as Hitler rose to power,” Brown-Manrique said.
Brown-Manrique first read from a poem by Thomans Berman, a Jewish man who fought to survive in Nazi-controlled Europe. He then discussed the lives of FÃ¼rth and FrÃ¤nkel, whose struggles mirrored those in the Berman’s poem.
“As these two men were practicing (architecture) in Europe, large events were happening all around them,” Brown-Manrique said.
Personal anecdotes colored the lecture, especially Brown-Manrique’s experiences with FÃ¼rth and FrÃ¤nkel. Brown-Manrique said he has spent the past 40 years researching the lives of FÃ¼rth and FrÃ¤nkel.
“Both had successful practices in their respective cities (FÃ¼rth in Prague, FrÃ¤nkel in Berlin) yet their world collapsed under them,” Brown-Manrique said.
For his class, Film and Architecture in the Metropolis, Brown-Manrique led a group of Miami students to Berlin during spring break, where they visited FrÃ¤nkel’s first architectural commission, the Gartenstadt Atlantic in Berlin-Wedding.
Miami’s Holocaust Awareness and Remembrance Program was the brainchild of Miami junior, Jenny Jacob. Shocked at the lack of knowledge about the Holocaust she saw among many of her classmates, Jacob was also motivated by reports of anti-Semitism from first-year students.
“Some people at Miami are very intolerant, not wanting to know about issues,” Jacob said. “This week is about Holocaust remembrance, but it’s also about getting to know Jewish student issues.”
Three of Jacob’s living grandparents are Holocaust survivors, with two from Romania and one from the former Czechoslovakia.
Jacob said that her grandparents had spent time in Theresienstadt (often referred to as TerezÃn), Auschwitz, and a forced labor camp in Romania.
Jacob said that while she felt the entire event was a success, Miami still has a long a way to go concerning issues of diversity. Disappointed with the lack of attendance by non-Jewish students, she was pleased for how many she was able to reach. Jacob said that the she hopes to put on remembrance week again next year.
The event is co-sponsored by Associated Student Government (ASG), Hillel International, the Honors and Scholars Program and The Center for American and World Cultures, among other organziations.