Strong messages from 2018 Holocaust observance

February 5, 2018 by David Zwartz
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Linking this year’s United Nations International Holocaust Remembrance Day (UNIHRD) with the New Zealand Human Rights Commission’s campaign “Give nothing to racism” produced some very forthright statements at the commemoration ceremonies.

Shona McFarlane Retirement Village resident and Holocaust survivor Paul Seideman with Hutt South MP Chris Bishop and this year’s winners of his competition – Anna Sue (Mt Roskill Grammar School) and Seb Bartley (Cambridge High School). Photo: Sarah Williams

Many speakers quoted the slogan “Be an upstander, not a bystander”.

At the Makara Jewish Cemetery’s Holocaust Memorial ceremony, the peaceful rural surroundings of grazing sheep and electricity-generating windmills were contrasted with the day in 2004 when nearly a hundred Jewish graves were vandalized and the prayer house reduced to a smoking shell.

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy condemned a recent upsurge in anti-Jewish hate posts on Facebook, and made a clear connection between antisemitism and anti-Israelism when stating: “ A foreign government’s policies is never an excuse to spread racist rhetoric and call for the genocide of an entire people.”

Mayor of Wellington Justin Lester linked pride in the capital’s multiculturalism and celebration of diversity with the horrors of the Holocaust and, as a result, what he teaches his own children about respect for others

Antisemitism associated with the State of Israel was strongly criticised by Israeli Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Mrs Kasa Bainesay Harbor.

At the Parliamentary reception hosted by Opposition MP Chris Bishop, he spoke movingly about his personal experience of visiting, a few years ago, a Holocaust-razed Polish village.

Explaining UNESCO’s involvement in global programmes against racism, the NZ Commission for UNESCO’s chair Robyn Baker said it was heartening to hear how many New Zealanders have been exposed to the message “Give nothing to racism” and that so many voices are calling for us all to never be silent about it.

First-term Green Party MP Golriz Gharhaman spoke of her own background as a refugee, and how her career as a human rights lawyer was influenced by Golda Meir’s account of attending the fateful 1938 Evian Conference on Jewish refugees.

Mr Bishop presented the prizes for the competition endowed by Auschwitz survivor Paul Seideman for students at NZ secondary schools that teach the Holocaust. The winning entry in the Junior section was a short documentary video created and produced by Seb Bartley of Cambridge High School. Anna Sue, of Mt Roskill Grammar School, won the Senior section with a strong essay addressed to her generation,  on the set theme, “How the Holocaust is significant to high schoolers.”

Anna read her essay and Seb’s video was screened for the audience which included their parents, Holocaust survivors including Paul Seideman and their descendants, members of the diplomatic corps, MPs, city and regional councillors, and human rights and interfaith leaders.

The annual competition is part of the Holocaust education programme run by the Wellington- based Holocaust Centre of New Zealand. The Centre is dedicated to educating New Zealand society, through Holocaust history and remembrance, that we need to oppose prejudice in all its forms, and guard against attempts to make any group a target of mass prejudice, as happened to the Jews in Nazi Germany.

The annual United Nations Holocaust remembrance commemoration is co-sponsored by the NZ National Commission for UNESCO, the UN’s educational organization, the Wellington City Council, and the Human Rights Commission.

Shona McFarlane Retirement Village resident and Holocaust survivor Paul Seideman with Hutt South MP Chris Bishop and this year’s winners of his competition – Anna Sue (Mt Roskill Grammar School) and Seb Bartley (Cambridge High School). Photo: Sarah Williams

UNIHRD commemorations were also held in Hamilton and Christchurch where the World Peace Bell in the Botanic Gardens was rung six times to remember the six million Jews who perished inthe Holocaust.

 

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