Each year the Memorial Week Program at Oregon State provides analysis of the Holocaust in its history: the background, the course, and the implications. A recurrent question that our program seeks to answer is, “How could the Holocaust have happened?” How, in the twentieth century, in a Europe seemingly quite advanced, could millions of men and women have cooperated in an effort to destroy a people, while so few sought to protect those who were in danger?
From the inception of our program in 1987, we have promoted education on a broad front, not only on campus, but throughout the Corvallis-Albany area and beyond. When Professor John K. Roth, the noted educator and Holocaust scholar, spoke at OSU in 1994, he commented that this Holocaust Memorial Program had become "nationally known." Professor Marion Kaplan, who spoke in 1995, volunteered that she knew of no program where she lived -- New York City -- that was as comprehensive or as well integrated as the one at OSU.
The calendar for Holocaust Memorial Week annually provides for 12-15 events, activities, and exhibits – 5-6 on campus, the rest in local schools or elsewhere in the Corvallis area -- and in a typical year 3000-4000 attend one or more events. Most of the events on campus are filmed, and many of the videos are available at our website (with more to come), so that those who cannot attend have the benefit of them.
Major annual offerings include lectures at OSU by internationally recognized authorities in Holocaust studies or comparative genocide. Our program also arranges talks on campus and in high schools in Corvallis and vicinity by concentration-camp survivors, liberators, and others who were in some way exposed to the Holocaust. We likewise arrange for age-appropriate events in the middle schools. The program provides for the screening of films on issues related to the Holocaust and genocide. Similarly, we sponsor the production of relevant creative works, such as plays and concerts.
In April 2006, for example, we sponsored a series of performances of a Holocaust play, Just One More Dance, at Corvallis High School, and School District 509-J arranged for every middle- and high-school student in our district – 3400 in all – to attend.
While our program focuses on the Holocaust, we also feel an obligation to promote awareness of the general issue of genocide and mass murder, which during the past century has been a recurrent problem, played out in killing campaigns unprecedented in scope. Since the breadth of the problem is not widely recognized, one day of each Holocaust Memorial Week is set aside for examining, in a variety of events, an episode of genocide or mass murder other than the Holocaust.