By Phil Corso
It was just another day to some of the students passing through Queensborough Community College last Thursday.
But to Dr. Arthur Flug, it was the big day in the midst of what he called his busy season.
Holocaust Remembrance Day fell on April 19 and Flug, executive director of the college’s Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives, had his hands full with various internship programs and activities for students.
“Our biggest mission is to tell the story and make it relevant,” Flug said. “On Holocaust Remembrance Day, we have a special opportunity to honor and to reflect on the indescribable suffering, bravery and selflessness of those who were murdered under the Nazi regime and those who became survivors.”
Through the center, students of the college are paired up with survivors of the atrocity with the goal to preserve their stories. According to Flug, one of the most common worries of Holocaust survivors that he has spoken to has been the preservation of their stories. In turn, the college created a program in which 15 interns meet with survivors once a week to learn and preserve their legacies.
“We take their experiences and we make them into educational programs for the students,” Flug said. “The students become a spokesman for them. They’re the insurance policy,” Flug said.
The Holocaust Resource Center is near the entrance of the college inside a large, glass cube structure. When inside, the various interactive exhibits come to life as the daytime sun shines through the glass walls, shedding light on the stories of suffering that Flug said needed to be told.
Vincent Wheeler was one student who met with Holocaust survivors through the program to preserve their stories. His testimony is displayed through a touch screen video display inside the center’s gallery.
“It was one of those experiences I’ll never forget,” Wheeler said. “It’s truly a blessing and I kind of value my life more because of that.”
According to Flug, the college is working to assemble a group of survivors’ children, known as the 2G, or second generation, Club, to tell their parents’ stories through their perspectives. Not only will these efforts provide a different view of the Holocaust, but they will also help keep their parents’ experiences relevant as they grow older, Flug said.
The Holocaust Resource Center at Queensborough is the only center of its kind in Queens.
“The Holocaust came to an end more than 60 years ago, yet the challenges that have emerged from this period relating to government-sponsored terror, hatred as a toll on society and the responsibility of the individual in times of moral crisis are not only still with us, but challenge us on a daily basis,” Flug said. “The programs, artifacts and individuals who make up the Kupferberg Holocaust Center are a dynamic force in meeting these challenges.”
Flug said the center does more than preserve Holocaust survivor stories. According to the executive director, lessons learned from the Holocaust are also applied to discussions on hate crimes and other related stories.
“Our promise to the survivors is to give their experiences meaning,” Flug said. “It’s an obligation to make sure they will not be forgotten.”
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4573.