Holocaust Awareness Week at CMU

Dr. Vincent Patarino, right, and Colorado Mesa University students set up the Field of Flags on Monday as part of CMU’s Holocaust Awareness Weeks Series. The Field of Flags features over 2,000 flags representing all of the major groups targeted by the Nazis during World War II and will be displayed until Saturday, April 13.

The thought of discrimination and death can be a source of anxiety and pain, which can be magnified when they are products of hate.

Colorado Mesa University’s 10th Annual Holocaust Awareness Series dives into the pain with a string of events taking place through April 13. The series is designed to educate people about the world’s past and present genocides, with hopes of overcoming intolerance and hatred.

“If we can get even one person thinking about how they look at life and looking past their own bubble this series will continue to be a success,” said Dr. Vincent Patarino, assistant professor of history at Colorado Mesa University and director of the Holocaust Awareness Series. “Toleration is something that needs to be taught, and hopefully these events will help build awareness in our community.”

The two weeks will feature well-known guests such as Larry Cappetto, an independent filmmaker, author, musician and producer of the award-winning film documentary series, “Lest They Be Forgotten.” Cappetto is also this year’s keynote speaker, and will deliver his speech at at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 3.

Dr. Michael Onyebuchi Eze, a professor at Stanford University, will discuss ethnic cleansing in West Africa, and Chautauqua performer Judy Winnick will play the role of Polish Catholic social worker Irene Sendler, who was part of the Polish underground and known as the “Angel of the Warsaw Ghetto.”

“We are lucky to have the speakers we do, and it was almost surprising because most of them actually contacted us about presenting,” said Patarino. “It shows how much this series has grown over the years and I think it’s become the largest series of its kind between Chicago and California.”

Patarino started the Holocaust Awareness Series in 2004 after he found a flier outside of his Grand Junction home calling for whites to stick together against other races.

“The fliers were distributed all around the Front Range and just had horrible racial slurs and really negative things about people,” Patarino said. “I remember thinking, ‘Vincent, you’re not in Kansas any more.’”

“I wanted to add to the academic community and make a difference, because obviously there needs to be a way to deal with intolerance.”
Patarino originally wanted the series to focus mainly on the Holocaust, with the inaugural event having only four presentations.

Patarino paid homage to CMU’s Gay-Straight Alliance and Phi Alpha Theta, the university’s history honor society, by describing their continual involvement in the series over the years.

“Without the help from those student organizations I really don’t know how successful our series would be,” said Patarino. “GSA and Phi Alpha Theta have been with us since the very beginning and have contributed so much.”


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