UN International Holocaust Day in New Zealand

January 31, 2012 by David Zwartz
Read on for article

The United Nations International Holocaust Remembrance Day has been commemorated in Wellington, New Zealand.

Inge Woolf, director of the Wellington Holocaust Research and Education Centre; H E Shemi Tzur, Israeli ambassador; Vera Egermayer, Holocaust survivor (child in Terezin); Hon Chris Finlayson, Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage, Celia Wade-Brown, Mayor of Wellington Pic: Woolf

Photo caption below

The Holocaust memorial stone in Wellington is in the Jewish part of New Zealand’s capital’s municipal cemetery. Around its rural site are hills with grazing sheep, and a couple of large wind turbines silently generating electricity in the background.

Behind the memorial are the rows of headstones which were toppled in a vandalistic attack on the Jewish cemetery in 2004.

This was the setting for today’s United Nations International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemoration – a simple ceremony involving the lighting of a candle, two speakers, two prayers, and the laying of stones on the Holocaust memorial by Wellington’s few (and, sadly, dwindling) Holocaust survivors, local dignitaries, the Israel and German ambassadors, and Jewish youth.

“German ambassadors have been steady attenders at Holocaust commemorations for many years,” said the ceremony’s MC, Wellington Regional Council chairman David Zwartz, “and we respect them for it.”

The speakers – Wellington’s deputy mayor and the head of the local Maori representative organisation – gave sensitive responses to the tragedies of the Shoah, and stressed the importance of education to perpetuate the “Never again” message.

At the end of the ceremony, all present queued quietly to lay their own stone on the memorial.

The commemoration then moved to the Great Hall of New Zealand’s Parliament Building in the centre of Wellington, where the Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage, Hon Chris Finlayson, hosted a reception.

Kosher refreshments were followed by two speakers – a leading barrister and legal academic who discussed the UN theme for this year’s commemoration, “Justice and accountability after the Holocaust,” and the chairman of the New Zealand Commission for UNESCO, one of the sponsors of today’s events.

Israeli cellist Inbal Megiddo played “Kaddish” by Israeli composer Joachim Stutchewsky.

“Holocaust Remembrance is so important,” said Inge Woolf, director of the Wellington Holocaust Research and Education Centre, who organized the day’s programme. “We must continue to not only mourn those who perished but also to pass the message on to our young people to ensure that we learn from the past.”

Photo shows (from left) Inge Woolf, director of the Wellington Holocaust Research and Education Centre; H E Shemi Tzur, Israeli ambassador; Vera Egermayer, Holocaust survivor (child in Terezin); Hon Chris Finlayson, Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage; Her Worship Celia Wade-Brown, Mayor of Wellington, standing in front of the 16 posters from the “Keeping the memory alive” poster competition organized by ITF (Task Force for International Co-operation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research). The posters were donated to the Wellington Holocaust Centre by Yad Vashem.
Photo credit: Photography by Woolf

Speak Your Mind

Comments received without a full name will not be considered
Email addresses are NEVER published! All comments are moderated. J-Wire will publish considered comments by people who provide a real name and email address. Comments that are abusive, rude, defamatory or which contain offensive language will not be published

    Rules on posting comments