More than 100 University of Wisconsin community members gathered in Library Mall Wednesday afternoon to remember the events of the Holocaust and come together as a community.
The rally was held in response to an ad posted on The Badger Herald website purchased by a Holocaust denier. The Herald refused to remove the ad, saying exposing it to the marketplace of ideas was the best way to approach and dispel the message behind the ad.
Many members of the Jewish community as well as other students and staff at the university disagreed with the Herald’s decision, saying the ad is simply too repugnant to be given ad space.
In an interview with The Badger Herald before the rally, UW Chancellor Biddy Martin said finding balance between free speech and the damage that speech can cause is difficult in every community. She said UW is certainly concerned about the harm this ad may cause, but she does not know if placing the ad on the site will ultimately be that damaging.
“I think that’s the question that we’re gathered here and other places around campus to debate,” Martin said. “The question of what [is] the appropriate route to take under pressure needs more debate.”
Martin added she was immensely proud of UW students for pulling the rally together so quickly, and students always impress her.
Martin later kicked off the rally with a speech honoring victims of the Holocaust. After her, four additional people spoke over a 30-minute span, remembering facets of the Holocaust or giving their own passionate personal reasons for why the ad is detrimental and wrong.
“The voice of memory is calling us to stand up to lies,” Hillel Rabbi Andrea Steinberger said. “Today you have united to stand up to hatred, to call a lie a lie.”
UW Hillel member and a planner of the event Abram Shanedling said what he had learned in school about the Holocaust became real for him when he took a trip to Poland that involved touring concentration camps. He added upon leaving the camps he knew the evil he saw was something no one should ever forget.
Another speaker, professor of education Simone Schweber, said it is important not to give legitimacy to people who spread lies. She said the ad should be taken down because this is not a controversy — it is just a person telling lies.
“When they accepted an ad from a Holocaust denier, the smart students on The Badger Herald staff made a mistake,” Schweber said.
After the speakers, first year medical student Monica Woll said it is extremely important for the Jewish community to stand up for themselves and to show how strong they are.
“I’m really proud of this community for standing up for itself here,” Woll said.
At the end of the rally, students were invited to an open forum called “Journalism, Ethics and Sensitivity” that will be held today in 272 Bascom Hall at 4 p.m.
The panel will feature Herald Editor in Chief Jason Smathers, Daily Cardinal Editor in Chief Charles Brace, journalism professors Lew Friedland and Stephen Ward and ASM Chair Tyler Junger. Dean of Students Lori Berquam will moderate the event.