Holocaust Remembrance Week at Elon University consists of a series of events that commemorate the Holocaust in order to remember its victims. Hillel and Amnesty International co-sponsored a screening of “The Last Survivor,” a feature-length documentary shown April 18 as part of the week’s events.
The award-winning documentary follows the lives of four people as they describe what it was like to live through four different genocides: Rwanda, Darfur, the Congo and the Holocaust.
The documentary focused on four survivors, one from each tragedy. Each individual had a story of survival that highlighted the importance for populations worldwide of understanding what is happening in other countries. It also gave those survivors a voice, unlike so many others before them, according to junior Rachel Stanley, co-president of Hillel.
“I love this film because it shows the humanity of these four amazing survivors while reminding the viewer that we can never forget the horrors of genocide and that genocide will continue to occur if we do,” Stanley said.
Stanley saw “The Last Survivor” at a conference on genocide in the fall, and she said she felt it was important to bring the film to Elon’s campus.
“The people featured in the film have such amazing true stories,” Stanley said. “I wanted the Elon community to be able to hear them.”
Elon has many organizations that are interested in the Holocaust, African studies and migration issues, but Stanley said it is important to host even more events around campus to increase awareness of worldwide issues.
The documentary was filmed in four different countries — Rwanda, Darfur, Germany and the Congo. Some of the survivors have not reconnected with any family members or know whether they’re even alive. The producers followed these people as they embarked on different milestones, such as living in their first apartment or traveling to high schools to share their experiences.
During the film, Heidi Fried, a survivor of the Holocaust, said God sees all human beings as small creatures, crossing borders and constantly moving. She said she doesn’t understand why other cultures don’t embrace one another, considering how often they intersect.
Also during the film, audiences meet a woman named Jacqueline lived through Rwanda’s genocide. She spoke to the United Nations about her experience. She had seen her neighbors — who had been friendly to her family since she was a child — butcher and throw the remains of her relatives into a river. She said she strives to make these deaths, among the millions of others, known to the world.
According to Stanley, “The Last Survivor” aims to use its four subjects as leaders in a movement against genocide. By revealing their struggles and loss, it humanizes them not only as survivors, but as people. Through the film, Stanley said she hopes Elon students were exposed to crises occurring around the world, as well as how people can work collectively to combat similar issues that continue today.
“It is up to us — to every single person — to bear witness to what happens, to hear these stories,” Stanley said.