JHC Betty and Shmuel Rosenkranz Oration on Zoom

November 2, 2020 by  
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At the Jewish Holocaust Centre, we know that education is the key to understanding both the past and the present. Despite COVID-19, we have done our absolute best to continue delivering our education programs. Survivors have been ‘zooming’ into classrooms across Australia.

Holocaust survivor, Paul Grinwald recently shared his story with a group of students in the Northern Territory

This year our annual Betty and Shmuel Rosenkranz Oration will be delivered online on 9 November and feature the British curator and education expert Paul Salmons. He will be discussing Auschwitz: Artefacts as Witness. Salmons was the lead curator for an expansive travelling exhibition titled Auschwitz: Not long ago, not far away that was recently on display in New York. He will explore the question: Why does Auschwitz still matter? These events took place 75 years ago, why must we continue to interrogate the subject?

Salmons will enlighten us on the many challenges he encountered in curating the exhibition for which he drew upon the many artefacts in the Auschwitz museum collection. Salmons is a deep thinker about education. In his pedagogical philosophy, he believes learners must approach ordinary and authentic objects with an awareness of their historical context. He says: ‘Authenticity comes from students arriving at their own questions about the past, becoming aware of its complexity, and then struggling to make sense of what they have learned in a continuing “search for meaning”.’

The oration is held each year on the anniversary of the 1938 November pogroms in Germany and Austria. The Nazis called these pogroms Kristallnacht because of the shattered glass that covered pavements in German cities after violent antisemitic attacks on Jewish businesses and synagogues. These riots were a warning sign that, sadly, few heeded. A little more than six years later, in January 1945, the Nazi crimes against humanity were revealed when the Russian liberators arrived at Auschwitz.

What are the questions that come to mind when we consider the shocking events of November 1938 and the subsequent Holocaust of the Jews of Europe? How can we make sense of this terrible time? It is possible to connect the dots from the November pogroms to Auschwitz, but it is neither a direct line nor a simple path because history consists of a multitude of complexities.

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel implored us not to be bystanders. This year, on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, we acknowledge that Holocaust survivors desperately wanted someone to speak up for them when they had no voice. Their memories implore us to search for meaning in the world today and to consider our responsibilities.

JHC

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