Kristallnacht 75th Commemoration – Melbourne

November 11, 2013 by David Marlow
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The Jewish Holocaust Centre (JHC) and Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) have co-hosted a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht.

Rabbi James Kennard

Rabbi James Kennard

The Kristallnacht Commemoration was held at the JHC and incorporated the JHC Betty and Shmuel Rosenkranz Oration which was delivered by Rabbi James Kennard, Principal of Mount Scopus College.  The audience included about 150 members of the community, among them students and a significant number of Holocaust Survivors.

Rabbi Kennard spoke about the importance of Holocaust remembrance and education, and in particular Holocaust Relativism and the importance of not diluting the significance of the Holocaust through:

  • Trivialisation of the Holocaust whether by language or imagery, comparing it to other events, whether they be terrible in themselves or not.
  • Contextualising the Holocaust, by trying to explain it away through the historical context, such as by comparing it to the bombing of Dresden or Stalin’s actions, as is sometimes attempted by some Holocaust revisionists.
  • Comparative relativism where it is compared to other terrible events such as in Cambodia, Rwanda or Darfur.
  • Use of Nazi and/or Holocaust imagery and language in contexts other than the Holocaust itself.

Rabbi Kennard said, ”If we compare the Holocaust to other events, we hinder the ability to learn because the Holocaust was unique.”  He said that there were six factors which together made it unique:

  • The Holocaust was state sponsored and organised
  • It involved not just death on a massive scale, but dehumanisation of the Jewish people through propaganda
  • Modern industrialisation was used to orchestrate the process of death
  • The scale of the Holocaust was not just the numbers who were murdered but the extent to which the entire German war machine was oriented to the one cause
  • The killing was not a means to an end, but the end in itself
  • The Holocaust was not carried out by monsters, but by ordinary people.

The Oration was followed by a panel of young community leaders, professionally moderated by Bram Presser, who discussed the issues raised by Rabbi Kennard and the lessons from Kristallnacht and the Holocaust. The panel included Aaron Densham, Yossi Reicher, Shifra Bendet and Josh Monester.

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