On Sunday, Herman Snyder addressed 600 people at an anti-genocide rally in front of the White House in Washington.
On Monday, he spoke to three classes of students at Baldwin High School.
“Now, I’m tired, ” Snyder said.
Maybe, but the message the 89-year-old Holocaust survivor communicated at each venue stayed the same.
“When I speak, I tell them the truth,” he said in his thick, but strong, Polish accent. “I tell them what happened, that we’re all human beings and we shouldn’t kill each other. Am I right?”
Snyder was part of a delegation of genocide survivors who traveled from Pittsburgh Sunday, April 19, to take part in a national “Testimony and Advocacy” event in Lafayette Park, directly across the street from the White House.
Participants called upon President Obama and Congress to take stronger action on behalf of Darfuris.
Snyder and a group of South Sudanese refugees were among 110 Pittsburgh residents who attended the rally. In Washington, other survivors of genocide came from Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur joined them.
The Pittsburgh Darfur Emergency Coalition (PDEC) organized the bus trip to Washington, which was hosted by the national Save Darfur Coalition.
The rally came the same week as Yom Hashoa — Holocaust Remembrance Day, and that was no coincidence.
“They had it very specifically in mind that President Obama is due to speak at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (this week),” said David Rosenberg, coordinator of the PDEC. “It was really timed to precede that so when he speaks about the Holocaust, the Darfur issue is represented to him.”
April is also Genocide Prevention Month, making the rally one of many around the country to mark the occasion.
Snyder, who works with the Holocaust Center of the United Jewish Federation, never before participated in a Darfur awareness program.
At the rally, Snyder recounted parts of his own story of survival; he then chanted El Malei Rachamim, which apparently moved the Archbishop of the Armenian Church of America.
“The archbishop congratulated me on what a beautiful voice I had,” Snyder said. “It took me all this time, but I became a cantor.”
Snyder was impressed by the gathering.
“There were so many people,” he said. “People are actually interested in eradicating genocide. Others came out of curiosity. They were enthusiastic; people spoke from many countries — their stories about genocide, and that’s what it was.
“There’s more to do,” Snyder added, “not only to eradicate genocide, but other things that exist in the world today.”
The Washington program began with a memorial ceremony by genocide survivors to honor the lives of those lost. Genocide survivors from the Holocaust, Darfur, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Cambodia came together with faith leaders, leading anti-genocide advocates, and local activists to reflect on past atrocities and to call on President Obama to act now for Darfur.
The event also recognized the yearlong effort by Darfur activists to collect a Million Voices for Darfur postcards. Over 13,000 cards were collected through the Pittsburgh leg of the campaign.
Groups from Schenley High School Students Taking Action Now Darfur (STAND), LaRoche STAND, students from Point Park and Duquesne Universities, as well as Fox Chapel, Woodland Hills and Central Catholic High Schools held up signs naming villages destroyed in Darfur.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)