A travelling Holocaust exhibition created by non-Jews

March 5, 2013 by Michael Kuttner
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A devoted Christian couple in Auckland has created a project called Shadows of Shoah (SOS)  initiated by them in Israel in 2008 when they photographed and interviewed Holocaust survivors.[rss-cut]

Sheree and Perry Trotter

Sheree and Perry Trotter

Realising that in a few years these individuals would no longer be able to give personal testimony to the crimes committed, , Perry and Sheree Trotter decided to start recording these eye witness accounts with the aim of not only preserving them for posterity but just as importantly, to utilize them as valuable resource material for an ongoing campaign of education and information. The next step was to gather testimonies from Holocaust survivors in New Zealand and also Australia, to produce videos which could be viewed on line and then to construct an exhibition which could be taken to all parts of New Zealand and hopefully also overseas. Enabling this exhibition to be presented in every location means that the message will reach students and adults who would not normally have the opportunity or motivation to visit the Wellington and Auckland Holocaust educational centres.

Sheree Trotter recently attended an educational seminar at Yad Vashem, together with a group of New Zealand high school teachers and two representatives of the Holocaust Centre of NZ. She told me that for her, the whole experience was first class and enhanced the educational component of the work of the Shadows of Shoah Trust. Having been officially launched on International Holocaust Remembrance Day by the NZ Prime Minister, the next exciting phase is to complete the final details and organise the venues where the exhibition can be viewed. This major undertaking has been a labour of love and dedication by a couple whose sole motivation is to ensure that the true stories of the victims are told and that the pupils of today and tomorrow’s adults are exposed to what really happened in the not so distant past.

Jeff Cook, Shadows of Shoah Trustee; Shemi Tzur, Israeli Ambassador; David Robinson, Honorary Consul for Israel and Shadows of Shoah Trustee; Perry Trotter, Shadows of Shoah Founder

Jeff Cook, Shadows of Shoah Trustee; Shemi Tzur, Israeli Ambassador; David Robinson, Honorary Consul for Israel and Shadows of Shoah Trustee; Perry Trotter, Shadows of Shoah Founder

As the years progress and survivors gradually die of old age, first hand eye witness accounts of the horrors unleashed against Jews and others during the years 1933 to 1945 are rapidly being lost. At a time when Holocaust denial and revisionist theories are being circulated in ever increasing numbers, it is vital that those exposed to these lies and especially the young generation of youth who are advancing through the education system, are made aware of the real facts.

In New Zealand where the general population is less than 5 million and the Jewish presence is so small that it hardly even registers, the chances of encounters with Holocaust survivors, their descendants or Jews in general, is hardly a daily event. In addition, as the Holocaust is studied as part of high school history lessons only at the discretion of teachers & pupils, plus regular negative media and internet publicity about Israel and Israelis, we have a recipe for distorted and twisted “facts” about Jews and their history. After all when phrases such as “Israel behaving like Nazis” and “Israeli genocidal and racist policies” are regularly quoted it is not surprising that this makes an impression on someone who knows no better and moreover has never had the opportunity to actually speak to a survivor of the concentration camps and thus learn what really did occur. Without any comprehension of what happened in Europe and without any idea of what is actually happening today in Israel and the Arab/ Islamic world, it is inevitable that a generation will graduate from high schools totally susceptible to any and every conspiracy and hoax circulating on the web or in society.

Prime Minister John Key and Perry Trotter

Prime Minister John Key and Perry Trotter

In recent times the Jewish communities in Auckland and Wellington have established Holocaust centres where material relating to those horrific events are on display. School groups amongst others can now visit and be introduced to a subject which up to now has only been dealt with in a haphazard and superficial manner. Visitors can listen to personal stories from the very few survivors still alive and view historical photos and items. As part of the educational outreach program many more individuals can now be enlightened and therefore this is an important step in raising awareness amongst the general New Zealand population. However it is still only a tiny, albeit vital aid in fighting denial and ignorance. The main drawback is that only those who make the effort to trek to Wellington & Auckland will benefit. There is an obvious need to have a more pro-active approach which will touch all high school students as well as the vast majority the breadth and length of the country.

Funding is critical in order to successfully complete this project and ensure its viability. Thanks to the generosity of the Raye Freedman Trust, the exhibition has already reached an advanced stage.  Obviously the Trotters cannot be expected to continue funding this by themselves and without Government or NGO support, alternative avenues must be explored. According to Sheree Trotter, in addition to touring New Zealand, they have received expressions of interest from people in Australia, Europe and Hawaii. Taking this exhibition to Europe would be particularly symbolic as after all that is where the whole sorry story was hatched and executed.  It would be a tragedy of immense proportions if this project of love should fail at the final hurdle because the funds to sustain it did not eventuate.

Thomas Sundell, the founder of the European Coalition for Israel said:  “The European Coalition for Israel is a pan-European organisation with the objective of building good relations between Europe and Israel. In 2005 we initiated, together with MEP Hannu Takkula, the first Holocaust Remembrance day event in the European Parliament in Brussels which has since grown to become an official event of the European Parliament under the patronage of the President of the European Parliament.

Next year will mark the 10th anniversary of the Holocaust Remembrance Day event in the European Parliament and we would like to mark this event by hosting the exhibition ”Shadows of Shoah” with Perry Trotter.

We are willing to use our network of contacts across Europe to open up for the exhibition in other parliaments as well as in local churches and synagogues.

We consider the exhibition by Perry Trotter to be groundbreaking in that it has a special way of reaching out to young people who have not been exposed to the horrors of Holocaust before. The video presentations are moving testimonies which have already impacted those who have watched them. We have not come across any other exhibition which would have succeeded in capturing the attention of young people in Europe in a similar way.”

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key added: “The Holocaust was a turning point in the history of the world. It was a devastating assault on millions of Jewish people across Europe, and millions more were affected in some way across the world.

Yet from within this dark period, have emerged overwhelming stories of courage and survival. There are also countless tales of those who, at great personal risk, acted to save the lives of others. At some of the worst of times, and in the face of great adversity, we often see the best of humanity.

Many of my generation have grown up with tales from this time. But for our children, the impact of the Holocaust is slowly being forgotten.

The Shadows of Shoah exhibition, which I was pleased to help launch while marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, will help remember those who died, recognise the struggle and suffering of those who survived, and help prevent these atrocities happening again. It will also help share some of overwhelming stories of survival with the world.

I encourage you to take some time to view this exhibition. It is important that we remember, in order to learn.”


Below is a link to the SOS website where you can see for yourselves what has been achieved so far, thanks to the dedication and faith of one  non-Jewish New Zealand couple.







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