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Class on the Holocaust stirs 200-page book from students

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–When a group of college students from Union University signed up for a class on the Holocaust in the spring of 2001, they had no idea it would stir them to produce a book on one of history’s darkest moments.

Josh Trent, one of the students in the class and now a Union graduate, had the original idea that the students put together a book of papers, poems, pictures and other thoughts and publish it as a commemoration. Trent, along with fellow graduate Autumn Alcott Ridenour, organized and edited the book, titled “When Night Fell: A Student Response to the Holocaust.”

The 200-page book includes 13 student papers, a paper and epilogue by David Gushee, the Christian studies professor who taught the class, and a foreword by Union President David S. Dockery, who has been a strong supporter of the project.

Gushee had taught the class a few times before. A previous class in 1997 felt the same need to commemorate the Holocaust and as a gesture of remembrance planted a tree with a plaque at its base, which can still be seen on Union’s campus in Jackson, Tenn.

“I had mentioned to the class what the students in 1997 did and this group felt that they should do something as well,” Gushee said about the origins of the book. “The book was student-initiated, a culmination of work done by the students in the class. It was all their idea.

“This book is a marvelous example of what happens when students are serious about consecrated learning,” Gushee added. “The Holocaust class became much more than a class for these students; it became a defining spiritual and intellectual experience.” Copies of the collective work were donated to the university during a ceremony at Emma Waters Summar Library on Union’s campus Dec. 2.

“Remembering helps to prevent further historic amnesia,” Ridenour said during the presentation.

Trent echoed her thoughts. “To me, this was a natural response for remembering a tragic event in the life of our world,” he said. “To think that one-third of the Jews in Europe and two-thirds of the Jews in Germany were wiped out, it is important to remember the lives of those that were lost. They were men and women just like us, who drove cars, went to movies, took picnics and vacations in the summer.”

Dockery described the project as important on several levels, “not least of which is the sound scholarship exemplified by these capable undergraduate students, but moreover the serious reflection on one of the key moral issues of the 20th century. I commend Dr. Gushee and the students on this outstanding project.”

Besides examining an era of history, the book stands to cause Christian readers to think and to examine themselves, just like the students of Gushee’s class did. “The students’ sorrow is found in these pages,” the professor said. “But also found is their moral resolve to remember the Holocaust rightly and to live out the proper lessons as disciples of Jesus Christ.”

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  • Sara Horn