Diplomats who saved Jews honoured at exhibition

March 12, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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The Queensland Parliament has hosted a unique photographic exhibition that honours the 34 diplomats from 21 countries, who collectively saved 200,000 Jews from Nazi extermination during the Holocaust.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk with 99-year-old survivor Dr Bert Klug and his son Michael        Photo: Michael Arenson

Annastacia Palaszczuk was joined by MPs from both sides of the aisle, Honorary Consuls from eight countries and members and friends of the Jewish community in attending the special opening at the Queensland Parliament.

This unique photographic exhibition honours 34 diplomats from 21 countries, who collectively saved 200,000 Jews from Nazi extermination during the Holocaust. The exhibition was made available through the Embassy of Israel.

Titled Beyond Duty, the exhibition comprises a collection of photographs of the diplomats, whose courage in saving Jews from the Holocaust has earned them the recognition of being declared “Righteous Among The Nations” by Israel’s Holocaust authority, Yad Vashem.

Among the diplomats being recognised are Sempo Sugihara, who served as vice-consul for the Japanese Empire in Kovno (Lithuania), and defied his government to issue life-saving visas to 6,000 Jews before most of them were murdered.

 

One of those Jews saved by Sugihara was 83-year-old Peter Baruch who now lives on the Gold Coast.

“I was an only child in Poland in 1939 and had a large extended family – all of whom were murdered in the Holocaust,” Peter said.

“My parents were introduced to vice-consul Sugihara who was prepared to issue us with transit visas to Japan, far from the turmoil of Europe.

It is because of the compassion of this one man, Mr Chiuni Sugihara, that I survived with my parents to have a wonderful life in New Zealand and now the spectacular Gold Coast.”

Sugihara survivor Peter Baruch with Nao Hirano representing Japanese Community of Queensland.     Photo: Michael Arenson

Vice-President of the Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies, Jason Steinberg, said Peter Baruch’s story was all too rare because during the Holocaust most countries, and most world leaders, turned their backs on the evil that was happening in Nazi Germany.

Jason added: “This photographic exhibition is unique because it celebrates and recognises a group of 34 diplomats who refused to condone the genocide happening in front of their eyes.

Thankfully, there were some individuals who were serving their countries in Europe that saved 200,000 innocent Jewish lives – they stood-up to confront the evil of the Nazi regime.”

President of the Japan Community of Queensland, Mr Nao Hirano, said Chiuni Sugihara had been dubbed the “Japanese Schindler” after Oskar Schindler, the German factory owner who Jews and was immortalised in Steven Speilberg’s movie “Schindler’s list”.

“We are proud of Mr Sugihara’s decision to take a humanitarian stand rather than following the command in this life and death situation,” Nao said.

“He risked his job to save the lives of thousands of people – this is the kind of fundamental Japanese philosophy that we like to maintain.”

In addition to Japan’s Sugihara, the exhibition also profiles Raoul Wallenberg, a secretary in the Swedish Embassy in Budapest, who saved thousands of Jews by placing them in buildings under the protection of a Swedish flag.

Wallenberg was posthumously recognised in 2013 by former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard as an honorary Australian citizen. This was the first time that Australia has bestowed such an honour.

The exhibition was hosted by the Queensland Parliament and supported by the Queensland Parliamentary Friends of Israel, the Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies and the Embassy of Israel.

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