The reminders were many this week: Let us never forget the horrors, the agony and the suffering of victims of the Holocaust, but also the personal triumphs and stories of survival, hope and remembrance.
That message resonated throughout the three days of the fourth annual Lichtman-Behm Genocide Lecture series this week to hundreds of faculty, staff, community members, alumni and local/area school children.
This year, Heidelberg was honored to host author and political activist Anna Rosmus, who is responsible for introducing Jimmy Lichtman and Don Behm. Namesakes of the series, the two men – a Holocaust survivor and his liberator – were remembered with poignant conversations between Rosmus and Heidelberg students, in a lecture she delivered about her unceasing efforts to reveal the hidden Nazi truths of her hometown of Passau, Germany, and by Holocaust survivor Betty Gold, who shared her story of survival with more than 500 middle school and high school students.
Lichtman, who died in March 2012 and Behm, ’51, who is in ill health, were remembered often during the series. In an especially moving event, Heidelberg paid tribute to Jimmy with testimonials from his family and friends who traveled great distances to participate. They included his wife, Martha (accompanied by daughter Kathy), friend and liberator George Sherman (accompanied by his wife Marcia), Holocaust survivor Emery Grosinger and Stuart Behm, ’90. Siblings Scott, Steve and Suzy and cousin Leslie Behm, ’76, also attended several of the events.
During his tribute remarks, President Rob Huntington had this to say about Jimmy’s life: “Jimmy Lichtman’s life was never meaningless. Evil people tried to make it meaningless in horrible places 70 years ago. They wreaked cruelty on millions but they failed. Lives of meaning and purpose always rise and prevail. The diamond in the heart and the power of love are ultimately always stronger than the blade in the fist and the wrath of hatred. That is humanity. That is Jimmy Lichtman.”
In various forums, Rosmus spoke about her 33-year quest to find out what her community and the world was prevented from learning. It became at times a cat-and-mouse game during which bureaucracy tried to foil her research at every turn. An innocent school essay became a lifelong journey – fueled by persistence and a dose of stubbornness – that has produced a life’s work in books and lectures.
“People tried to shut me up in many ways,” Rosmus told AIM Hei students. Asked why she kept going, she said, “One, nobody else was doing this and two, somebody had to set the lies straight.”
“My hometown (of Passau, Germany) had an unusual and violent past. Wherever you looked in this little town, it read like a who’s who of the Third Reich,” Rosmus said. She has worked tirelessly to reverse the perception of war criminals as people of power and honor, and reshape the response to persecuted Jews in and around Passau.
During her keynote lecture, Rosmus spoke in great detail about her crusade against racism, bigotry and hatred. “Gradually, I am filling the voice on a local level,” she said.