A Visit to the Virginia Holocaust Museum Samantha Rosier '14

In the middle of finals week, Brett, three other board members, and I travelled down to Richmond to tour the Virginia Holocaust Museum, located in the industrial part of the city near the train tracks. Mr. Neil November, a W&L alum, met us there and we were given a guided tour of the museum from a man who was born at the very end of the war to Parisian
parents. The only members of his family to survive and make it to America were himself, his twin brother, and his father. At the beginning of the tour, the guide took us outside the museum and had us step up on top of railways that were taken up from the Third Reich's transportation lines in Germany. He described how millions of Jews were forced to do exactly what we were doing, thousands probably on that very same rail. He asked for a moment of silence in memory of all those whose lives were lost.

As we balanced on top of the rails with the winter wind whipping around us, a train was going by. I tried to put myself there, back in Germany in the early 1940s. The sounds and weather transported me and for a second, I could really imagine it. The train rattled on and brought with it echoes of crying and shouting. The cold wind reminded me not just that I should have a warmer jacket, but more so that the Jews were often taken with just the clothes on their back. For a moment, I felt their fear.

When we arrived back in Lexington that night, we stopped in the Hillel House to light the candles and celebrate the second night of Hanukkah. As we sang together, I kept thinking that this is exactly what Hitler wanted to end. Our presence and observance of our traditions are the best actions we can take to honor the six million.

As the year ends, I'm reflecting on how grateful I am for my family, friends, and heritage. I'm looking at Hillel in a new way this week. We can only make sure that Judaism continues through organizations like Hillel. The friendships and programs it provides ensure that our heritage and traditions remain for generations. I am grateful to be a part of it.