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CMU honors Holocaust survivor during sixteenth annual awareness series

National organization applauds university efforts

Grand Junction- Peter Gorog spent a majority of 1944 in the confines of a basement avoiding bombing raids where he lived in the Budapest ghetto. Later this month, Gorog will spend time on the campus of Colorado Mesa University. As one of the few remaining Holocaust survivors, while on campus he will remind the next generation of Americans that the Holocaust and genocide are issues of today — not to be relegated to history. As a volunteer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Gorog works to keep lessons learned from the Holocaust on the minds of people. As a man who survived history’s most egregious genocide, he remains a living legacy to perseverance and the hope that humankind may overcome future atrocity by learning from the past. 

Gorog will visit CMU as the university hosts the sixteenth annual Holocaust Awareness Series the week of March 25, 2019. Associate Professor of History Vincent Patarino, PhD, is the series coordinator and is a tireless advocate for Holocaust awareness.

"The Holocaust Awareness Series focuses on what causes genocide,” said Patarino. “It also considers what it means for humanity that the global community still experiences genocide today. Today's students and community must fight the subversive and insidious underlying drivers of genocide. We can help them do this by reminding everyone of the history of the Holocaust. Mr. Gorog’s presence on campus is a powerful symbol when it comes to accomplishing that goal.”

While visitation of a Holocaust survivor always captures the attention of a campus community, the series is also garnering accolades outside of CMU.

James Kurtz-Phelan is the past chair of the Anti-Defamation League Mountain States Board of Directors and believes events like the one at CMU are critical for ensuring future generations don’t lose site of history’s cautionary tale.

“Jewish people in Colorado appreciate efforts by CMU to ensure that Holocaust remembrance is a message heard statewide,” said Kurtz-Phelan. “With fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors alive today, we risk losing historic lessons that may be repeated in the future if we are not vigilant with critical education.”

The series begins on Monday, March 25, with a field of flags display followed by a film screening. The field of flags display will contain more than 2,500 flags and each one represents 5,000 lives killed by the Nazis in concentration camps during World War II.

On March 26, Peter Gorog will provide a keynote presentation with additional film screenings, lectures and discussions occurring through the remainder of the week. The films, lectures and discussions will be made available to be public through CMU’s Civic Forum website — an effort appreciated by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). ADL is a national anti-hate organization working around the world to stop the defamation of Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment for all.

“The fact that the event is in its 16th year says a lot about CMU’s commitment to Holocaust awareness and education,” said Senior Associate Director at the Anti-Defamation League Sue Parker Gerson. “Our national efforts at ADL to end intolerance begin with local efforts like the series hosted by CMU.”

While the event’s theme is Holocaust awareness, the coordinators believe the mission and objectives of the series are more broad. The series will also explore not only the groups systematically targeted by the Nazi regime, but also those who were the victims of government-sponsored atrocities such as the Armenian Genocide; Cambodian Genocide; ethnic cleansing and genocide in Rwanda, Iraq, and the Balkan region; and the current genocides taking place in Nigeria, Myanmar and the Sudan. 

“The goal is to bring together local Grand Junction residents with the Colorado Mesa University academic community in a partnership that reflects who we are as an institution,” said CMU President Tim Foster. “Emphasizing issues of education, respect and diversity is a formula for ensuring that genocide is relegated to history and is non-existent in the future. The efforts of our faculty, students and community around this event are remarkable and they remind me through their passion that Holocaust awareness is one of the most important events of the year for CMU.”

CMU invites the public and media to attend the series and notes that lectures and presenters will be available for media interviews throughout the course of the week.

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Written by David Ludlam