The Holocaust remembered in New Zealand’s capital.

January 29, 2015 by David Zwartz
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Due to the significance of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the commemoration of United Nations International Holocaust Remembrance Day was more extensive in New Zealand this year.

Auschwitz survivor Paul Seideman, who has endowed a Holocaust topic essay competition, with the Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage (Hon Maggie Barry) and inaugural competition winners Susannah Hansen (Woodford House School, Havelock North) (left) and Jessica Strick (St Peter's School, Cambridge). Photo: Photography by Woolf

Auschwitz survivor Paul Seideman, who has endowed a Holocaust topic essay competition, with the Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage (Hon Maggie Barry) and inaugural competition winners Susannah Hansen (Woodford House School, Havelock North) (left) and Jessica Strick (St Peter’s School, Cambridge). Photo: Photography by Woolf

As well as two events in Auckland, the capital Wellington held a memorial service at the Makara Holocaust Memorial attended by government minister Hon Nicky Wagner, at which the Mayor of Wellington (Celia Wade-Brown) and the Race Relations Commissioner (Dame Susan Devoy) spoke strongly about the present-day messages that the Shoah requires us all to absorb and act on.

At a Parliamentary reception hosted and addressed by the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage (Maggie Barry), there were also speeches by the chair of the NZ National Commission for UNESCO (Ian McKinnon) and, very movingly, Carol Ratnam, the daughter of an Auschwitz survivor.

The joint inaugural winners of a new essay competition on a Holocaust topic for secondary school students received their prizes from the minister in the presence of Paul Seideman, a survivor of Auschwitz and other Nazi labour camps, who endowed the competition.

The Mayor of Wellington, Her Worship Celia Wade-Brown (right) and Holocaust Centre of NZ director Inge Woolf after laying stones at the Makara Holocaust Memorial on UN International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Photo: Photography by Woolf

The Mayor of Wellington, Her Worship Celia Wade-Brown (right) and Holocaust Centre of NZ director Inge Woolf after laying stones at the Makara Holocaust Memorial on UN International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Photo: Photography by Woolf

An exhibition Auschwitz to Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand) was opened in the Parliamentary exhibition gallery. It tells the inspiring story of nine survivors of Auschwitz who later came to New Zealand and created new lives for themselves and their descendants. It runs until the 20th of February.

The Holocaust Centre of New Zealand and Wellington’s Victoria University have also arranged a week of talks and presentations on Holocaust topics.

In Hamilton, New Zealand’s fourth largest city, a public commemoration at the Holocaust memorial was attended by the mayor, all local MPs, city councillors and a large representation of interfaith activists, totaling about 150 people present.

In Christchurch, where the Jewish community is still suffering from the drastic effects of the February 2011 earthquake, a memorial gathering was held in the Jewish community centre

There was extensive media coverage of the remembrance events, including an op-ed in NZ’s largest newspaper, the New Zealand Herald, by Mrs Inge Woolf, director of the Holocaust Centre.

The Centre published a 64-page book Auschwitz: 70 years later for the occasion, funded by the Wellington embassies of France, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia and the USA. Its sections are titled Reflections (including essays by the ambassadors), History, and Education through remembrance (including the winning competition essays).

New Zealand’s Attorney-General (Hon Chris Finlayson) represented the country at the international commemoration at Auschwitz in Poland, from where he sent a message read out at the Parliamentary reception in Wellington.

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