NZ Prime Minister launches Holocaust project

January 25, 2013 by David Zwartz
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New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key today will launch a unique, New Zealand-produced artistic educational project, ‘Shadows of Shoah’ at the official Auckland commemoration of the United Nations International Holocaust Remembrance Day (UNIHRD)…a move appreciated by Israel’s ambassador to new Zealand.

Prime Minister John Key

Prime Minister John Key

This invitation-only event is being held at the Raye Freedman Arts Centre in Epsom Girls’ Grammar School.

New Zealand will observe the United Nations International Holocaust Remembrance Day (UNIHRD) at three separate ceremonies.

As UNESCO’s Director General, Mme Irina Bokova, put it, “The history of the genocide perpetrated during the Second World War does not belong to the past only. It is a ‘living history’ that concerns us all, regardless of our background, culture, or religion. Other genocides have occurred after the Holocaust, on several continents.  How can we draw better lessons from the past?”

Auckland City Council, the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand, and the Raye Freedman Arts Centre are joint sponsors with the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO.

As well as the Prime Minister, speakers include Holocaust survivors who are part of ‘Shadows of Shoah’, and a UNESCO representative (Dr Edna Tait).

United Nations International Holocaust Remembrance Day has been observed in Wellington for a number of years by a commemorative ceremony at Makara cemetery, Wellington. Friday’s event is the first official commemoration in Auckland.  The official day of commemoration is January 27th, the anniversary of liberation of Auschwitz death camp by the Soviet Army in 1945.

Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand Shemi Tzur, said: “The Prime Minster the Rt. Hon. John Key, along with dignitaries of the Auckland community will be taking part in a special ceremony commemorating the International Holocaust Day. A uniquely New Zealand produced Holocaust Exhibition called Shadows of Shoah will be officially launched by the Prime Minister.
Additional to the Auckland function, Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and Minster Christopher Finlayson along with members of the community will remember the day on Sunday 27 January at Makara cemetery and at the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand.

In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly designated January 27 as the annual international day of commemoration to honor the victims of the Nazi era. This date was chosen as it marks the anniversary of the liberations of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. The U.N. resolution also rejects the denial of the Holocaust, and condemns discrimination and violence based on religion or ethnicity.

The United Nation’s Resolution calls on every member to oblige to honor the memory of the Holocaust victims and develop educational programs as part of the promise to help prevent future acts of genocide. Earlier this month, the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand, with the support of the Israeli Embassy, sent 20 New Zealand school teachers and educators from all over the country to attend a two week seminar at Jerusalem’s international Holocaust Centre Yad Vashem with the aim to implement their newly gained resources into their schools.

Ambassador Shemi Tzur casts the first vote in the world in the recent Israeli election

Ambassador Shemi Tzur casts the first vote in the world in the recent Israeli election

We have to raise awareness and understanding of the events of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides as a continuing issue for all humanity, based on a recognition that it could happen again anywhere and at any time, unless we ensure that our society opposes racism, prejudice discrimination and hatred towards others.  It is a day where we take the time to see how the lessons of the past can play a part in our community today.

The Holocaust is an issue that is really close to my heart as it is for many people and the way New Zealand is taking such a strong interest in teaching about and commemorating the Holocaust, is something that should be praised.”

In Wellington the hour-long public ceremony will be held at the Jewish part of Wellington Cemetery at Makara on Sunday 27 January, starting at 3pm.

Keynote speaker is the Mayor of Wellington, Her Worship Celia Wade-Brown, who will explain the proposal for New Zealand’s Button Memorial to the Children of the Holocaust, a national memorial in Wellington based on the 1.5 million buttons – representing the children who died during the Holocaust – which were collected by pupils at Wellington’s Moriah College.

Other speakers are a representative of UNESCO (Dr Andrew Matthews) and a former pupil of Moriah College (Ariel Rosenbaum).

The commemoration will conclude with participants and the audience placing a stone on the Holocaust Memorial.

This will be followed by a reception at 5pm at the Wellington Jewish Community Centre, 80 Webb Street, where the emphasis is on the Button Memorial to the Children of the Holocaust.

Holocaust concentration camp survivor  Vera Egermayer,  Justine Hitchcock, the former principal of Moriah College and Caitlin Hitchcock, a former Moriah pupil will speak.

The commemoration will close with the audience placing buttons onto a symbolic memorial candle.

Wellington City Council, the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand, the Wellington Regional Jewish Council, B’nai B’rith and the Council of Jewish Women are co-sponsors with the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO.

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