The 24th Annual Holocaust Art & Writing Contest.

On March 10th, 2023, Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social SciencesRodgers Center for Holocaust Education hosted the awards ceremony for the 24th Annual Holocaust Art & Writing Contest for middle and high-school students. The theme for this year was “The Strength of Love and the Will to Survive.” Participants used an interview with a Holocaust survivor to create a work of poetry, prose, film or art that connected the survivor’s testimony to the year’s theme. Presidential Fellow and author, Glenn Kurtz, was the keynote speaker and spoke about what it means to have a life shaped by love.

The names of all participating schools, nationally and internationally, either in attendance or viewing the ceremony remotely, were read during the event. Finalists in each category were recognized, with second-place winners receiving a certificate and first-place winners reading or showing their award-winning entries.

Kurtz spoke about a 1938 home movie that he discovered which captured three minutes of life in Nasielsk, Poland, a town where most Jewish residents would perish in the Holocaust. Kurtz described a sense of responsibility for preserving their memory. He explained how this sense of responsibility turned into love, as he said, “I would never have said that what I felt for them was love. But it was.

The 24th Annual Holocaust Art & Writing Contest.

A peculiar kind of love. A commitment to respect and to honor them.” By dedicating the time and energy to telling the survivors’ stories, he explained that this could be called nothing else but love. The participants in this contest shared the same responsibility in preserving the memory of a survivor, and thus shared the same kind of love.

Kurtz quoted Marian Turski, a survivor of Auschwitz, who claimed that there is an eleventh commandment: thou shalt not be indifferent. Survivors teach us to care in the face of violence, even if apathy would be easier and less painful. His closing quote of his speech addressed indifference.

“Apathy and indifference might protect you, but everyday, the survivors and the victims challenge you to accept the responsibility of caring to do the hard work, of finding in yourself the strength to do justice, to make a difference, to do the hard work of a life shaped by love.”

Dr. Marilyn Harran, director of the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education and the Stern Chair in Holocaust Education, gave her closing thoughts, taking a moment to honor the participating schools from Poland who were hosting Ukrainian refugees. She spoke about the war in Ukraine and natural disasters in Turkey and Syria and the importance of love.

When asked how we can advocate for survivors of other tragedies, Dr. Harran brought up Nadia Murad’s story of survival. She said, “Once suffering begins to become real to us, and we make that human connection, we also know we can be empowered to make a difference, even if it is only for one individual in need. As Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, a Presidential Fellow said, ‘the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.’”

The list of first place winners are below:

    Alejandra Rosas, Grade 8
    Good Shepherd Catholic School, Beverly Hills, CA
    Teacher: Caitlin Carlos
    Survivor Testimony: Bertha Haberfeld
    Dylan Brigulio, Grade 8
    Harbor Day School, Corona del Mar, CA
    Teacher: Chatom Arkin
    Survivor Testimony: Engelina Billauer
    Sophie Shinmei, Grade 8
    Beechwood School, Fullerton, CA
    Teachers: Marisa Sonny &  Janette Bustamante
    Survivor Testimony: Jadzia Stern
    Veronica Flack, Grade 8
    La Cañada High School 7/8, La Cañada, CA
    Teacher: Leslie Baldwin
    Survivor Testimony: Vera Gissing
    Angelina Morosan, Grade 12
    Saint Sava National College, Bucharest, Romania
    Teacher: Denis Radu
    Survivor Testimony: Bluma Goldberg
    Naama Denan, Grade 9
    Woodbridge High School, Irvine, CA
    Teacher: Karen Briner
    Survivor Testimony: Bluma Goldberg
    Aeryn McCallie, Grade 9
    Sentinel High School, Missoula, MT
    Teacher: Tammi Allison
    Survivor Testimony: Sally Roisman
    Anna Kunkel, Grade 10
    The Seven Hills School, Cincinnati, Ohop
    Teacher: Mark Beyreis
    Survivor Testimony: Renée Firestone