"Capturing the horror of those years with ink is almost impossible," wrote Stephen Hill, one of 140 finalists in the fifth-annual Holocaust Art and Writing Contest sponsored by Chapman University's Holocaust education center and The "1939" Club.
Nevertheless, more than 1,000 students from 56 schools, mostly in California, made the effort to enter this year's contest, an experience in "becoming a witness to the future," said Marilyn Harran, the center's director.
About 500 students were present last month in Orange to learn the contests' outcome and hear and see the winning entries. In addition, they had the privilege of meeting some of their heroes among the 75 Holocaust survivors present and to watch a film about some courageous inmates who overthrew their captors and made a rare escape from a death camp. Thomas "Toivi" Blatt, an escapee from Sobibor, pleaded with the audience to pass on his story.
Using the theme "Conscience and Courage: Heroes of the Holocaust," students in seventh through 12th grade entered essays, poetry and, for the first time, art in demonstrating command of their subject. Among the 19 judges was Leon Leyson, a retired teacher and the youngest member of "Schindler's List."
First place, middle school: Paulina Phan, grade 8, Lakeside Middle School, Irvine, art; Christine McNab, grade 7, Lakeside Middle School, essay; and Zachary Yates, grade 8, Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School, San Clemente, poetry.
First place, high school: Sothea Ouch, grade 12, Robert A. Millikan School, Long Beach, art; Irina (Era) Dykhne, grade 9, University High School, Los Angeles, essay; and Matthew Adam White, grade 9, University High School, poetry.
Second place, middle school: Jonathan Juliani, grade 8, St. Columban School, Garden Grove, art; Camilla Wade-West, grade 8, St. Anne School, Laguna Niguel, essay; Chelsea Redmon, grade 8, Stacey Middle School, Westminster, poetry.
Second place, high school: Amy Segall, grade 10, Tarbut V'Torah Community Day School, Irvine, art; Rebecca Kuperberg, grade 10, Tarbut V'Torah Community Day School, essay; and Melissa Jones, grade 10, Acaciawood College Preparatory Academy, Anaheim, poetry.
The public is invited to Chapman's Memorial Auditorium for a Holocaust Remembrance Day program at 7 p.m. on April 15 called "A Nation of Rescuers: Denmark and the Holocaust." The film, "The Danish Solution," will be shown, introduced by Gustav Goldberger, son of the chief cantor of Copenhagen's Great Synagogue. There will also be a candle-lighting ceremony with reflections by Rabbi Stuart Altshuler of Congreagtion Eilat in Mission Viejo and a musical tribute from Cantor Chayim Frenkel of Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation of Pacific Palisades, accompanied by David Kamenir. For more information about the event, call (714) 628-7377 or visit www.chapman.edu/holocausteducation