Yesterday afternoon I donated blood over at The University of Arizona. As I walked back toward my office afterward, I paused at an installation on the mall–hundreds of flags represented the millions of people killed during the Holocaust. They brought in cattle cars to show how small and nightmarish it would have been to be transported in something like that. At the west end of the mall they had set up a small stage and podium, with thirty or so chairs set before it. Although all of the chairs were empty, a young man was standing at the podium reading the names of Holocaust victims into a microphone. I stood listening for a minute or two and then sat down in one of the empty chairs to be a witness. Hearing the unending list of names, ages, and countries of those who had been killed was heartbreaking. I thought about the current climate of our country, of the world, and how the horror of the Holocaust doesn’t seem that far away. How this is still happening in the world, and even in our own country. How easy it is to go on with our lives if we aren’t directly affected by the terrible things happening before our eyes. 

On a whim I turned on the recording app on my phone to capture a minute of the young man’s voice. By sheer coincidence, the next two names he read were those of three-year-old Zena Plotkin and 10-year-old David Plotkin from Ukraine. My grandmother was a Plotkin. My mother is half Plotkin. I am one fourth Plotkin.

After about ten minutes another young man came onto stage to take his turn reading names.

I quietly stood up and walked away, wiping tears from my eyes. Although I know he continued to read names, by the time I got around to the other side of Old Main, the young man’s amplified voice had faded away. People played frisbee on the grass and walked to class.

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