Yom HaShoah Melbourne

April 13, 2010 by Geoffrey Zygier
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The Jewish Community Council of Victoria’s Yom Hashoa commemoration for 2010 attracted a very large audience, demonstrating the ongoing significance of the Holocaust for both Victorian Jewry and the larger community.

L-R, Dr George Luk Consul-General of Poland, Mr John Searle JCCV President, Mr Antun Babic Consul-General of Croatia, Mr Peter Brosc, Germany’s Deputy Consul, Mr Dor Shapira Embassy of Israel

Indeed, given the large numbers of young people in attendance, it could well be argued that the Holocaust’s hold on the public interest is increasing.

Last night’s event at Monash University brought a message of survival, strength and hope to an audience that included Mr Antun Babic, Consul-General of Croatia, Mr Peter Brosch, Germany’s Deputy Consul, Dr George Luk, Consul-General of Poland, Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Simon Overland, many politicians representing the State Government,  the Opposition and the Greens, Dr Mark Burton and Archdeacon Philip Newman from the Anglican Church, a raft of Jewish communal leaders and of course many members of the Jewish community.

As always, the program was dignified and moving, appropriate to the solemnity of the occasion.  This year’s candle-lighters were six ‘Buchenwald Boys’ (child survivors of Buchenwald), including Mr Jack Unikowski whose eloquent and measured testimonial to the resilience of the human spirit in the midst of unimaginable cruelty and horror moved his listeners to both admiration and tears.

For the first time at Melbourne’s Yom Hashoa, a Righteous amongst the Nations award from Yad Vashem was presented by JCCV president John Searle, Israeli embassy spokesperson Dor Shapira and Buchenwald Boy Szaja Chaskiel.  It was received by George Paszkudzki and his sister Leonarda Paszkudzka-Baizert on behalf of their  deceased grandmother Leonarda Paszkudzka and father August Paszkudzki.  George Paskudzki spoke of the great courage demonstrated by his family who hid Renata Stam in their house for two years, a Jewish girl whowas to become their mother after marrying August  Paskudzki at the war’s end.

A brief video continued the theme of hope and renewal, showing aspects of Jewish life in Victoria and Israel and importantly its recent resurgence in Post-Communist Poland.  The last was followed by a video message from Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich, attesting to the unquenchable spirit of the Jewish People as demonstrated by the vibrancy of Polish Jewish life today.

According to John Searle, “Once again this was a very powerful event, one which never fails to both move and inspire both participants and audience.  While it would unquestionably be better not to have to commemorate this period, it nonetheless confirms the resilience of the Jewish people”.

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