JACKSON, Tenn. – Dec. 3, 2002 – When a group of college students from Union University signed up for a class on the Holocaust back in the spring of 2001, they had no idea that the class would do more than fulfill graduation requirements. Through discussions and readings, the students decided that the devastation of one of history’s darkest moments needed to live on, so they agreed that they had to do something.
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 book is 200 pages long and includes 13 student papers, a paper and epilogue by Gushee and a foreword by Union president David S. Dockery, who has been a strong supporter of the project.
David Gushee, professor of Christian studies, had taught the class a few times before. He said that a previous class in 1997 felt the same need to commemorate the Holocaust and as a gesture of remembrance, they planted a tree with a plaque at its base, which can still be seen on the campus.
“I had mentioned to the class what the students in 1997 did and this group felt that they should do something as well,” said Gushee 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,” added Gushee. “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 University’s campus on Dec. 2.
“Remembering helps to prevent further historic amnesia,” said Autumn Ridenour, during the presentation. Josh Trent echoed her thoughts.
“To me, this was a natural response for remembering a tragic event in the life of our world,” said Trent. “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.”
“This project is 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,” said Dockery. “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,” said the professor. “But also found is their moral resolve to remember the Holocaust rightly and to live out the proper lessons as disciples of Jesus Christ.”
By Tracie Holden, Class of 2004
Sara B. Horn,