At the University of Munich in 1942, a group of students known as the White Rose group began to distribute anonymous pamphlets criticising the Nazi regime.
They sent them to other German cities, managing to produce 6 different leaflets before being arrested by the Gestapo (the Nazi secret police), put on trial, and killed.
Photo: Group portrait of students at a Jewish school. Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, 1938 — US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Why is this story relevant to British students in 2017?
Because this is an example of empowered students fighting for what they believed in. The students involved had been forced to fight for the Nazi regime and saw the mass murder of the Jewish people in Poland and Russia. They believed they had to take action, and it is from their story that we can be inspired to fight against discrimination.
Given the lack of documentation from the time, there is no exact figure for the number of human lives lost to Nazi persecution. What is undeniable, however, is the indelible mark on the world. The Holocaust challenges our beliefs about the capability of mankind to destroy the lives of others in such a horrific manner. For decades the world has said ‘Never Again’. Yet it has happened again. In Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur, to name a few.
And closer to home, on our own campuses, antisemitism, Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination have risen in recent years. So many communities on campus are subject to torrents of abuse because of their beliefs, faith and identity. At a time where discrimination occurs on all sides of the political spectrum, it is easy for it to occur on campus. It is so important that we as the student movement, make all people feel safe especially in a university. Universities should nurture and provide a space for a huge differentiation in concepts and ideas and let people grow and develop without fear of hatred and persecution.
Since 2001, the UK has observed Holocaust Memorial Day on 27th January. Held on the date of the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp, Holocaust Memorial Day is a chance to reflect, to learn and to remember the millions of people killed by the Nazi regime. Nazi persecution targeted Jews, gay men, black Germans and disabled people, along with other groups. There are students on our campuses who belong to these groups that were targeted. Let’s show them that they are not alone in remembering the history of people like them.
This year, NUS is proud to be working with UJS – the Union of Jewish Students – and HET – the Holocaust Educational Trust – on Our Living Memory, a campaign that aims to assist students’ unions and societies in hosting commemorative events for Holocaust Memorial Day 2018.
To get involved in bringing Holocaust education to your campus and be the first to receive our resource pack, sign up here.