Holocaust Museum’s important lessons for the future

November 22, 2023 by AAP
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The refurbished Melbourne Holocaust Museum has opened its doors after three years of construction, sharing first-person accounts from survivors.

Jayne Josem, Pauline Rockman  and Mike Debinski watch Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese cutting ribbon during the official launch event for the Melbourne Holocaust Museum in Elsternwick, Melbourne, Wednesday, November 22, 2023.   (AAP Image/Diego Fedele)

Holocaust survivor Henry Ekert didn’t think he’d live long enough to see the launch of the refurbished Melbourne Holocaust Museum.

The 87-year-old retired pediatric haematologist was aged five when Nazi soldiers arrived in his Polish town and says it’s important Australians understand how quickly hatred can spread.

“They have to understand what false ideas can actually result in and what atrocities human beings are capable of committing if they’re motivated purely by hatred and nothing else,” Dr Ekert told reporters.

He’s elated the museum has finally opened its doors to everyone.

The museum in the southeastern suburb of Elsternwick was previously a small education centre for school groups but on Wednesday re-opened as a larger facility open to everyone.

It’s designed to explain the Holocaust to a general audience though first-person accounts, detailing anti-Semitism from before Nazi Germany, the horrors of the 1930s and the lives of survivors who fled to Melbourne.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan attended the launch along with prominent community leaders and Holocaust survivors.

The Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 was frequently referenced, with speakers stressing the importance of the museum as a place of education against a backdrop of rising anti-Semitism.

Mr Albanese said he was moved to hear the stories of some of the six million people murdered in the Holocaust in addition to the voices of survivors and those who spoke out.

He said Jewish Australians are bearing a pain they should never have had to feel and vowed not to let anti-Semitism take hold.

“What the Holocaust Museum so powerfully reminds us is that when we maintain meaningful contact with the past, we give ourselves our best chance of ensuring it doesn’t become our future,” Mr Albanese said.

Mr Dutton called on as many people as possible to visit with their children.

“We’re witnessing an unmasking and resurgence of the same hate, thoughts and behaviours which led to the Holocaust,” Mr Dutton said.

“Perhaps naively, we thought our century, or at very least a democracy in our century, would be immune from the anti-Semitism of the last century.”

More than 800,000 students visited the previous version of the museum over four decades and Ms Allan said they had absorbed its message for a world without hate and prejudice.

She said the October 7 attack saw the single greatest loss of Jewish life since the Holocaust and acknowledged the grief of audience members with family and friends who had died or were taken hostage by Hamas and whose lives had changed forever.

“Standing here today in this place makes that day feel even more raw,” Ms Allan said.

The refurbished building features a new immersive exhibition for children aged 10 and over called Hidden: Seven Children Saved, which follows the experiences of children.

The permanent exhibition Everybody Had a Name was designed to have a uniquely Melbourne perspective on the Holocaust and ends with the stories of prominent survivors.

They include artist Mirka Mora and her entrepreneur husband Georges, Sarah and Mendel Glick of the famous Glick’s bakery chain and Dr Ekert, whose research improved the survival rate for childhood cancers.

Dr Ekert said he refused to be afraid following the October 7 attack and was instead angry, while also feeling very sorry for the Palestinian children killed in the ensuing conflict.

He said he wished the federal government had been more unequivocal in their condemnation of the attack earlier.

“Today it may be the Jewish community, tomorrow it could be someone else,” Dr Ekert said.

By: Rachael Ward/AAP



One Response to “Holocaust Museum’s important lessons for the future”
  1. Marilyn Snider says:

    The Melbourne Holocaust Museum is a significant educational site for all families who see their role in teaching their children to care, empathise and understand humanity. The MHM’s reach to be a unifying and cohesive force for societal harmony is undeniable.

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