School of Theology and Ministry
News & Events

International Holocaust Commemoration Day

  • About

    The Holocaust challenges all peoples and nations—and people of faith in particular—to stand against genocide, bigotry and racism wherever they occur.  

    Mindful of this challenge, Seattle University Campus Ministry and the School of Theology and Ministry convene an annual Holocaust and Genocide Remembrance Day Commemoration as both a reminder of past horrors and a call to action to prevent future tragedies.


    Tuesday, January 27th | 7pm | Student Center 160
    Bob Herschkowitz, Holocaust Survivor
    Free & Open to the Public

    About Our Guest:
    We are honored to host Bob Herschkowitz as a part of this special event. He is a Belgian native who was just a young boy during the Holocaust.  When Herschkowitz was two years old, Germany invaded Belgium, forcing his family to flee to France. Although at one point the family was arrested in Northern France, they managed to escape and use false Baptism documents to enroll Herschkowitz in Catholic school. However, the French soon began detaining Jews and his family was sent to an internment camp. When his mother became pregnant with his younger brother, they were separated from his father. In order to avoid being sent to a death camp like Auschwitz, his father escaped the internment camp and with the help of a Basque family on the border of France and Spain, was reunited with his wife and two sons. The family fled to Switzerland together and returned to Belgium after the war. Herschkowitz went on to serve in the Belgian Navy. He then moved to the United States to work as an engineer for Boeing and became a commander in the US Navy Reserve. He served as the president of the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center (WSHERC) and is the youngest survivor speaking on behalf of the Center. 

    Past Years' Events

    Monday, January 27th  |  7:00 - 8:30 pm  |  Student Center, Room #160
    Leo Hymas, US Liberator at Buchenwald in Weimar Germany
    Free & Open to the Public
    Leo HymasAbout Leo Hymas:
    “I want students to cherish what we have in this country and to stand up against the bully for what is right.”
    Leo grew up on a farm in northern Utah. At 18, he was drafted into the United States Army, trained as a heavy machine-gun operator and transferred to the 97th Infantry Division, 303rd battalion.  In 1945, Leo landed in France where his division was assigned to General Patton’s Third Army, which advanced into Germany and Czechoslovakia.

    While in Germany, Leo respected the rights of two German prisoners of war and liberated a slave worker on a farm. He was also part of the American military team that liberated the Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald near Weimar in April, 1945.  He and several fellow soldiers used Bangalore torpedoes to bomb the barbed-wire fence to enter Buchenwald and overtook the firing SS guards. Only 19 at the time, Leo was haunted for years by what he experienced inside the camp: 18,000 emaciated prisoners, crematoria, cramped barracks and Nazi guards. He says the “most haunting and heart wrenching of all are the personal stories” of the prisoners. Leo is now friends with one of those prisoners, Robbie, a Polish Jew whose family the Nazis murdered in Auschwitz.
    Leo Hymas“I was blessed to help free many oppressed peoples unlike ourselves.  I want you to know that what tiny little bit I did to help overcome that terrible, awful wickedness, as difficult as it was, was the best thing I have ever done in my life,” says Leo. Leo began telling students of his wartime experience in 1997 partly to come to peace with his memories, but also because a man at a conference once called his account a “myth of liberation.” As part of his speech, Leo presents several Nazi artifacts he came across, with the belief they give insight into how the Nazis gained power.  He hopes people of all ages make the essential connection between the lessons of the Holocaust and the moral choices they face today.

    Two Dates

    For a number of years, Seattle University’s observance was held on or near Yom HaShoah, which is Hebrew for “Day of the Catastrophe”.  

    Yom HaShoah marks the anniversary of the Jewish Warsaw ghetto uprising against the Nazis.  Yom HaShoah occurs on 27th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, which falls in April or May of the Gregorian calendar. Many Jewish groups around the world, and particularly in Israel, observe  Yom Hashoah as a day of mourning and remembrance for all Holocaust victims.  Respectfully following their lead, the United States Congress established the Days of Remembrance as our nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust.  The Days of Remembrance run from the Sunday before Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah) through the following Sunday.

    To avoid the proliferation of events in the community on Yom HaShoah, Seattle University now commemorates the Holocaust on or near January 27th, which is International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust as designated by the United Nations.

    January 27th was the day in 1945 when the Soviet troops liberated the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland. Auschwitz-Birkenau, near Oświęcim, Poland, was one of the most notorious Nazi death camps. More than one million people died in Auschwitz-Birkenau before Soviet troops liberated it.  The name “Auschwitz” is almost synonymous with the Holocaust.  

    On January 24, 2005, the UN General Assembly marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. On November 1, 2005, the Assembly adopted a resolution designating January 27th as the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. On this annual day of commemoration, every member state of the UN has an obligation to honor the victims of the Nazi era and to develop educational programs to help prevent future genocides.