Centenary students sweep awards in essay contest
SHREVEPORT, LA — Three Centenary College students took top honors in the 2016 Holocaust Memorial Service Collegiate Writing Competition sponsored by the North Louisiana Jewish Federation. Krista Bennett, Brianna Manieri, and Tara Partington were recognized as first, second, and third place winners, respectively, at the 33rd annual Holocaust Remembrance Service held Sunday, May 1 at St. Mary of the Pines Catholic Church in Shreveport.
All three students submitted essays to the contest as part of Dr. Lisa Nicoletti's "Representations of the Holocaust" course at Centenary. The topic for the 2016 competition asked students to choose a certain group of people or institution and explain how many responses to the Holocaust was inadequate, as well as comment on how contemporary actors might have done more.
"Until recently, Auschwitz survivor Rose Van Thyn spoke on campus annually, telling Centenary students about the family she lost and the horrors she experienced during the Holocaust," says Nicoletti. "Most students today never have a chance to meet or learn from a Holocaust survivor. This important writing competition spans middle school to college students to make sure the next generations will know about the dangers of hatred, indifference, and intolerance, hopefully to ensure a safer, more compassionate future for us all."
Krista Bennett, a Studio Art major whose essay, "His Holiness, Pope Pius XII – Self-Righteous Spectator of the Holocaust," won first place in the contest, says that Nicoletti urged the students to choose a topic with personal significance.
"I chose to research the ways in which Pope Pius XII, the wartime pope, stood by and did nothing while the Holocaust took place," says Bennett. "This subject was important to me because I attended Catholic schools prior to college. Having spent twelve years of my life learning about the responsibilities of faithful Catholics, the findings of my research were all the more startling."
Second place winner Brianna Manieri recently graduated from Centenary with a degree in biology. She channeled her interest in human health and welfare into an essay examining the wartime passivity of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), even after the organization was presented with reports of deportation, torture, and systematic killing perpetrated by the Nazis. Noting that the ICRC's motto includes the pledge "to alleviate human suffering, protect life and health, and uphold human dignity," Manieri's essay details several instances when the ICRC failed to take action to protect Jews and other victims of Nazi terror and raises the crucial question, "Why would the ICRC not speak out on behalf of the victims they claim to represent?"
Tara Partington's third place essay, "An Oath of Murder," examines Hitler's rise to power in Germany in the 1930s, arguing that widespread and centuries-old anti-Semitism in German society led ordinary Germans to put up little resistance to the Nazi's murderous policies.
Partington attended the Holocaust Remembrance Service on May 1 and was pleased to see so many people gathered for remembrance and education, especially many young children.
"I come from a German Catholic family and my parents made sure we studied history. I had family fighting for both sides and thankfully the older generations in my family have shared many stories about that time period with me," says Partington. "Not everyone is as lucky as I was while growing up to hear first-hand accounts about World War II. It is important to learn and remember so that something like this can never happen again."
The Holocaust Remembrance Service of Northwest Louisiana is an annual community event welcoming people of all faiths who wish to remember the lives that we lost during the Holocaust, and who are "committed to strive to obliterate injustice wherever it is found." This year's remembrance service was chaired by the Reverend Father Rothell Price, Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Shreveport, and featured guest speaker Joe Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum is one of the "Tehran Children," a group of Polish Jewish children who escaped the Nazi German occupation of their country and found temporary refuge in the Soviet Union and later Iran before finally reaching Palestine in 1943.