‘Hate Zone’ signs did their job

Alex Nichols

Your commentary on the Kristallnacht event sponsored by Hillel and History Club sparked its own controversy amongst members of those organizations. As president of History Club, I feel your misinformed opinion (“Don’t use hate to raise awareness,” Nov. 12) of our anti-hate activities could be misleading to those who did not participate in our program.

If our “Hate Zone” signs offended and angered passersby, then the signs did their job. In-your-face as they were, they only helped highlight the fact that although the events of Kristallnacht targeted Jewish homes and businesses, the devastation of the Holocaust itself encompassed such an astonishingly wide variety of cultural groups that scarcely anyone was left free from persecution.

As students, we can sit in history class and take down notes on Hitler’s concentration camps, the Bosnian genocide and the conflict in Darfur and not once think about the meaning behind the lectures.

It is estimated that between 11 and 17 million people from varying social and cultural backgrounds perished during the Holocaust. Does a viewing of “Schindler’s List” really make that fact real to us? Does the hassle of writing a paper on Nazi Germany make the years of fear, hate and discrimination those people suffered any more tangible?

We absorb the statistics without ever actually being affected by them. We finish up our notes, put our books in our bags and happily wander off to dinner with friends. We are numb to the past, nearly to the point where we can’t acknowledge that genocide will continue occurring unless we develop enough foresight to stop it.

If putting up those signs was what it took to finally force students to make that personal connection to the events of the Holocaust, then our event was successful. Our organizations have already been criticized for our actions, but the dozens who signed our “Never Again” poster were all supportive of our goal.

If anyone had “a hurtful walk through campus” or felt “ostracized and attacked” by our signs, then they obviously didn’t attempt to talk to us or reach for our explanatory flier. History isn’t always pretty, and we don’t regret the accuracy of our Kristallnacht signs in portraying past discriminatory beliefs that are still alive and well today.

Connie Locker is president of KSU History Club.