Exploring the ways in which Holocaust remembrance can be molded in order to amplify political rhetoric — including how the commemoration of the Holocaust can be distorted or warped to fit into various narratives — Sara Romai ’23 delivered a Community and Multicultural Development (CaMD) spotlight presentation on May 15. Romai’s research focused specifically on the case study of Holocaust distortion and mis-remembrance in Poland, while also urging attendees to consider the implications of this example on ourselves and our broader communities.
Introducing the presentation, Natalya Baldyga, Instructor in History and Romai’s faculty advisor, highlighted the importance of Romai’s investigation of the phenomenon of Holocaust distortion.
“In the course of her research, [Romai] not only identified different ways in which the Holocaust has been forgotten, remembered, and misremembered, but she’s also revealed that the phenomenon of Holocaust distortion is widespread and acute. The case study that she presents here tonight cogently reveals the particular challenges of Holocaust remembrance in Poland and also asks us to consider our roles in a world where echoes of her case study are all too present,” said Baldyga.
The presentation consisted of a mixture of student discussion and lecturing, providing opportunities for attendees to talk and share with each other during the presentation. Sarah Barton ’24, who attended the event, appreciated the style of the presentation as it allowed attendees to think and talk while learning.
“My main takeaway was really that this is still happening, denial and distortion of the Holocaust. And distortion can really allow people to take events and sort of use them and that really stuck with me. We really have to be careful of the way things are being taught and the way things are being spoken of, otherwise the meanings of certain events can be really changed.” said Barton.
Romai’s presentation centered around how distortion of the Holocaust, either purposefully or unintentionally, can shift the entire narrative. Another attendee, William Boo ’23, appreciated how Romai’s presentation helped audience members reflect and think about their own experiences through the context of her research.
“This past year I’ve been thinking about how things are framed, partly because of a lot of history classes, and really considering the idea of how a certain idea is framed and how it’s remembered, even if it is remembered it might be improperly, and how the narrative can end up being changed. Whenever I see a monument, it’ll make me think about if the entire story behind it is being told,” said Boo.
Romai closed her presentation by posing a question to the audience, hoping it would push attendees to think about their own efforts and actions in Holocaust remembrance.
“The case study that I’ve talked about illustrates really well how there are so many ways to distort Holocaust memory, some of which are really obvious, but there are also many smaller ways in which remembrance and commemoration can still be distorting the historical reality of what happened. So I want to leave you with this question: what power do we have to fight Holocaust distortion and where can that happen?” said Romai.