New Holocaust mural remembers the names

By Madison Hakey

 Champlain Valley Union High School

After 24 hours or so of work, CVU now has a beautiful, updated mural in the art hallway. Thea Weiss, a senior, decided to paint over the existing eight-year-old Holocaust mural and put her own work up as her Symposium project for the Holocaust and Human Behavior course. Weiss wanted to create something “permanent” and something that people around CVU could be affected by.

When you first look at the mural, you see a portrait of a person made up of a collection of white words. Across the shoulders and neck is a quote in black, “For the dead and the living we must bear witness,” which is by Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, from his novel Night. As you look closer, you see that the person is mostly made up of names; these are the first names of survivors and victims of genocides all over the world.

The idea of the mural popped into Weiss’s head as soon as the Symposium project was introduced. The point of the project is to connect the learning in the course to the student’s personal takeaway or the most influential information to them.

Amy Wardwell, one of the Holocaust teachers, said, “The Holocaust is one of the biggest case studies of how a lot of ordinary people did really horrible, evil things or refused to stand up and fight against some of those things because the power of the system and situation they were caught in. Our goal is to help students be aware and to learn resisting behaviors and ways to combat those influences.”

These main ideals and students’ personal knowledge are reflected in the Symposium projects. Unlike a general test, this project gives students the chance to show their individual understanding and what they want others to be aware of. Other Symposium projects included documentary videos, songwriting and singing.

Weiss was inspired by these main ideals of Holocaust and wanted to show that “we’re all built out of the experiences of other people and we’re all connected, especially to events like the Holocaust.”

She showed this connection through building the person in the mural out of the victims’ names–metaphorically building us out of their experiences. She decided on the colors blue, white and black because she didn’t want the mural to be too dark or “morbid.” With the white writing, she reflects the Holocaust book and movie Everything Is Illuminated with the idea that  “everything is illuminated in the light of the past.” Her quote in black was an idea from the previous mural which also had a summarizing quote along the bottom.

Weiss’s mural will be here in CVU for a while and affect many more lives than we can fathom.

She hopes, “people will respect the mural because it’s really hard to learn about events like this without feeling uncomfortable or scared, but I really hope that it’s a sign of remembrance”–and remember we will. Those lucky enough to take Holocaust will be changed forever and Weiss has given us all a chance to experience this through her art. The mural will be here to let us connect, remember and respect.