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Days of Remembrance brings speakers to South students

By Alex Gershanov
Published: May 2009

As Channah Birkovits told her harrowing Holocaust tale, the auditorium fell silent. “There was not one noise, Spanish teacher Viviana Planine said. “The kids were really taken in. In an effort to raise awareness for and honor the victims of genocide, the Newton Human Rights Commission (NHRC), South’s chapter of STAND, and the Newton South Enrichment Program held the annual Days of Remembrance in the Seasholes Auditorium during the week of April 27.

NHRC South student representative senior Hannah Konowitz began planning the event in the beginning of March.

“I hoped the students could take away a lot of vital information from the speakers, she said. “I hope that people were able to learn a lot and that maybe some will find a way to become involved.

Principal Brian Salzer commented that the event is effective in raising awareness about genocide.

“It has an impact because it is unique, he said. “It is important in that it creates an impact in a student to get them thinking about something.

In addition to Birkovits, the Days of Remembrance included presentations from various speakers, including Irit Tamir, an attorney with a Masters degree in International Law and Sheila Davis, a Brookline nurse with over 20 years of experience volunteering in human rights and global issues. They spoke about the crisis in Darfur, genocide around the world and the struggle to survive through the Holocaust.

Other speakers included Dikran Kiligian, who spoke about the Armenian Genocide, and Yan Bialek, who spoke about escaping from Czechoslovakia.

Although Konowitz contacted all of last year’s speakers, only two returned.

Students were particularly captivated by Birkovits during Wednesday’s G-Block presentation, when she spoke of her experience under Nazi occupation. Many students were able to relate to her story through relatives who had endured many of the same difficulties.

“A classmate of mine actually went up to [Birkovits] and discussed how he appreciated her coming because his grandmother was a survivor as well, Konowitz said.

Freshman Phillip Kudryavtsev found the presentation to be informative.“[It was interesting] because my grandparents suffered the same thing in World War II, he said.

The Days of Remembrance have taken place at South for 10 years, growing with each successive year.

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