Perth Commemorates International Holocaust Day

February 1, 2011 Agencies
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The Holocaust Monument in Perth sits just inside the entrance of the Stirling Gardens adjoining Council House, at the corner of St Georges Terrace and Barrack Street. It is in a beautiful location, under the trees and prominently placed for passers-by to contemplate. Small and unobtrusive, it commemorates the tragic loss of the millions of victims of Nazi oppression and systematic extermination.

One side bears the following inscription:

“First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not Jewish.
Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not Communist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.
– Pastor Niemoeller”

The Holocaust Monument, Perth

January 27th was the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the occasion was marked this year with a quiet yet moving ceremony hosted by the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia, the United Nations Association of Australia and the City of Perth.

When the United Nations established the International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2005, the then Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, reminded the world that this Day should serve also to “reaffirm our unfaltering resolve to prevent the recurrence of such crimes.”

Judith Parker, president of the WA branch of UNAA read out a message from Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General, regarding the commemoration planned at the United Nations in New York for the same day.

‘This year’s observance will focus on the theme “Women and the Holocaust:  Courage and Compassion”, and will pay tribute to the bravery and ingenuity of the women who faced Nazi persecution with strength and dignity during the Second World War.  “Jewish women performed truly heroic deeds — in the face of danger and atrocity — they bravely joined the resistance, smuggled food into the ghettos and made wrenching sacrifices to keep their children alive.  Their courage and compassion continue to inspire us to this day,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.’

Our ceremony continued with a reading of the 23rd Psalm and the Memorial Prayer by Rabbi Coleman, followed by the traditional Mourners’ Kaddish.

Ester Steingiesser (NCJWA), Rabbi Shalom Coleman CBE MA, Angela Davis OAM, Judith Parker AM (President UNAA), Deputy Lord Mayor Cr. Janet Davidson JP

Adina Lieblich then spoke movingly of her connection to the Holocaust: her dilemma was what to say and how to say it. To talk of the origins of the Holocaust, the march of Nazism, the need to remind the world? What should she say? In the end, it was quite clear that she should speak of her grandfather and his brother, sole survivors of their extended family. So she told us of the unspeakable ordeals they suffered, including their separation and the miracle of finding each other again after the War. It is a story that can be matched by any number of Jewish families worldwide, and it carries a message of gratitude for life and survival against unspeakable odds.

At the conclusion of the ceremony the gathering proceeded into Council House, where Councillor Janet Davidson had provided refreshments perfectly suited to such a hot day. At the conclusion of our light lunch, Rabbi Coleman spoke of the horrors that must never be repeated, and particularly of the importance of family in ensuring the survival of society.

This message was reinforced by Laurence Goodman, former Perth City Councillor, who explained the origins of the monument. It had been planned by Doron Ur, then Chairman of the Jewish Community Council, and in 1995 the City Council voted unanimously to install it where all visitors to the gardens can see it as they come through the gates. It is believed to be the only such monument in Australia.

Laurence spoke briefly of his own family’s fate and his gratitude for his own path in life: half his family moved west across Europe to London and survived despite the tribulations of wartime, while the remainder settled in Paris and did not.

When the last survivors of the Holocaust are gone from this Earth, monuments and memorials such as this will be necessary to remind the world of the Holocaust. In the words of Ban Ki-moon, “The United Nations was created in hope — and hope is what it stands for to this day.  On this occasion of solemn remembrance, let us remember that.  Let us work together to make the United Nations all that it can be, all that it must be — a force for democracy, a champion of freedom, a lamp for human dignity, human rights and human aspiration.  Above all, let us renew our collective determination to never allow such a terrible passage of history to happen again.  Never.”

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