A loss for the New Zealand community

February 28, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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The Holocaust Centre of New Zealand (HCNZ has announced the passing of its Founding Director, Inge Woolf z”l.

Inge Woolf Photo: RNZ Sara Vui-Talitu

Inge, born in Vienna, Austria in 1934, was the daughter of Evzen and Grete Ponger. She was only four years old when the Nazis marched into Austria during the Anschluss. She remembered vividly her neighbours putting out the Nazi flag and being happy seeing the Nazi soldiers march down their street. This memory forever shaped her life and her mission of combating hate and antisemitism.

Inge, along with her mother and father, left Austria and moved to Czechoslovakia in 1938, seeking refugee status in the United Kingdom in 1939. They were able to leave Czechoslovakia for the United Kingdom after going through a conversion to Christianity, but her family always remained committed to their roots.

Inge and her family would make the decision to emigrate to New Zealand in 1957 and begin rebuilding their lives. It was here in New Zealand that Inge met her future husband, the late Ronald Woolf, and with whom she helped set up the successful Wellington photography business “Woolf Photography.”

Inge was instrumental in helping to establish the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand, becoming Founding Director and Board Member. Inge’s passion was educating students on the lessons of the Holocaust. Throughout the years since, she has been an active volunteer and educator at HCNZ. Inge was a living embodiment of the HCNZ mission to educate all students in Aotearoa New Zealand and to ensure that we Witness, Remember, Educate, and Act.

Inge was the proud mother to Deborah Hart, current Chair of Board of HCNZ, and Simon Woolf, current Wellington City Council member. She was an adored grandmother to Nathan, Neta, Jason, Sam, Noah, Lily-Jane, and great-grandmother to Hadar.

Loved and respected by many, Inge’s legacy lives on in the thousands that have heard her speak and give her testimony. She was a bulwark against hatred and antisemitism, challenging students and adults alike to not be bystanders when hatred rears its ugly head.

“Today the lessons of the Holocaust are poignant to combat increasing intolerance and racism, to teach the value of human rights and the celebration of diversity.” (Inge Woolf QSO, 2019)

The Holocaust Centre of New Zealand would like to express our deepest condolences to Inge’s family. We wish them all long life.

Chair of the Wellington Jewish Council David Zwartz told J-Wire: “Inge Woolf QSO had a vision for Holocaust education in New Zealand which saw a small room with two display cases at the start, turn into a beautiful memorial space with a library, wall displays on Holocaust history and survivors, a staff of five, and an education programme reaching across the whole country.

Over its 14 years, the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand has welcomed thousands of school pupils to its premises, and educates thousands more through a programme of sending secondary level teachers to a special Yad Vashem training course.

It has lecture series, a close link with Victoria University of Wellington that sees interns and students researching and publishing on Holocaust topics, as well as mounting public commemorations of United Nations International Holocaust Remembrance Day in five cities.

Close co-operation with education authorities and New Zealand’s Human Rights Commission has seen the lessons from the Holocaust used as strong educational tools against discrimination, antisemitism and racism, using the slogan: “Be an upstander, not a bystander.”

Inge’s hard work, leadership and fundraising skills, and above all the sincerity and passion of transmitting her own experiences, have made this success possible.”

Inge Woolf:  Born May 18 1934, Vienna, Austria   Died Wellington, New Zealand February 26, 2021

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