ST. BONAVENTURE - St. Bonaventure University will observe Holocaust Remembrance Day with a memorial service at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 14, in the University Chapel, Doyle Hall. The public is invited.
Guest speaker at the Holocaust Remembrance Service will be Dr. Sol Messinger, a Holocaust survivor from Buffalo.
At the age of 7, Dr. Messinger and his family sailed from Germany to Cuba in an attempt to escape the Nazis. Denied entry, the ship went back to Europe and many of its 931 passengers, mostly Jews, died in the Holocaust.
Dr. Messinger and his family ended up in Belgium where they received help from Jewish organizations. Upon the German invasion of Belgium, his family managed to escape to France by train.
After living in a small village near the Spanish border for three months, Dr. Messinger and his family were picked up by police and sent to a French Concentration Camp. A local Jewish organization helped them escape, allowing them to receive their U.S. Visas in 1942.
The family was able to locate a Portuguese ship and, after stops in Casablanca and Bermuda, they arrived in New York City. After living with relatives in New York City for a month, they moved to Buffalo to join other relatives.
Father Francis Di Spigno, O.F.M., executive director of University Ministries at St. Bonaventure, said the memorial service is important because it ties in with the university's Franciscan tradition.
"As a Franciscan university, one of the main charisms of Franciscans is to be bridge builders. (Saint) Francis did that in his life," Father Di Spigno said. "I think it's really important that we as a university mark what is one of the most horrific events perpetrated to the human race ... as an opportunity to recognize our uniqueness, our thisness that each person has, as well as each religion, each denomination, each community."
Father Di Spigno hopes the service will not only heal but also bring about conversation and thought about how peace can be brought to the world today.
"Our hope (is) that it also allows a sense of healing for those whose memories are still scarred," Father Di Spigno said. "(And) to remember the pain of history; we need to be vigilant to pray for peace and to be mindful so that history does not repeat itself."
The SBU Chamber Choir will also give a performance during the service.
Congress established the Days of Remembrance as our nation's annual commemoration of the Holocaust and created the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as a permanent living memorial to the victims.