White Rose Society hands out roses to raise awareness, prevent genocide

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Sa Wang

Students from the White Rose Society sort white roses in March of 2012 on the West Mall.

Vera Bespalova

At the height of the Holocaust, 10,000 people were murdered in Auschwitz each day. 

The UT White Rose Society will be handing out 10,000 white roses across campus today, each rose commemorating one life lost. Max Glauben, a Holocaust survivor, will be speaking to students at 6 p.m. at Texas Hillel. 

English freshman Leah Kashar and Plan II freshman Sophie Jerwick are co-presidents of the organization. Jerwick said the history of the organization dates back to Europe in the early 1940’s.

“The White Rose Society was originally a group at the University of Munich during the Holocaust,” Jerwick said. “It was a group of non-Jewish students that tried to notify the other students about the atrocities of the Holocaust by educating them through leaflets.”

The original Society was executed by the Gestapo, the secret state police of Nazi Germany, because of their efforts. Today, the UT White Rose Society focuses on Holocaust remembrance and genocide prevention.

Jerwick said the 10,000 white roses event has a powerful effect on students.

“There’s such a difference between having something about the Holocaust as a quiz question in a high school history class versus walking out onto campus and seeing one in every five people carrying a white rose,” Jerwick said. “If we were in Auschwitz today, those people carrying a rose would not be alive.” 

The organization chooses a different cause to advocate for each semester. This semester’s chosen cause is the Syrian refugee crisis.

“Our pamphlets that we’re attaching to the roses also have information on the Syrian refugee crisis and the parallels between the two … how the U.S. handles Syrian refugees and how Jews were handled during the Holocaust,” Kashar said.

Kashar, a senior columnist for the Daily Texan, said the organization also has postcards asking Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz to co-sponsor an anti-genocide bill that was introduced in the U.S. Senate in February.

Samantha Dier, international relations and global studies sophomore, said she was inspired to volunteer at the event after a recent trip to Hungary and Romania, where she worked with Holocaust survivors.

“I just had a pull to come in and make sure I volunteered …. I think it’s so much in the past that a lot of people forget the impact that it had on the people of that day,” Dier said.