28 Jan 2020

Never Again - the Message from Holocaust Remembrance

Deb Hart

My Speech as Chair of the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand at United Nations International Holocaust Remembrance Day Commemorations
Auckland, 27 January 2020 

For most of us, our liberty is something we take for granted.  But for those few who survived to be liberated from Auschwitz and the other death camps, those who finally came out of hiding, the concept of liberty could never be taken for granted again.  

Today we remember those who were liberated on 27 January 1945 and the 6 million Jews who were murdered in the years before liberation.

At the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand (HCNZ), our mandate is simple - to remember and to educate.  It is a job we take very seriously.  Firstly, we believe we owe it to the 6 million to remember each of them.  Secondly, we know education is one of the best
mechanisms we have to safeguard the Jewish community from antisemitism and to ensure a civil society.

We say never again.  What does it mean when we say this?  

It surely means never again to antisemitism.  And yet there is a palatable rise in antisemitism, from the right and from the left.

It means that history, carefully documented and irrefutable, is to be remembered and yet we are in the midst of Holocaust denial.

It means that the Jewish people and our history are to be respected like any other people and yet our history, linked inextricably to the land of Israel, is routinely denied and diminished.

It means that each of us has to stand against antisemitism, bigotry, intolerance and hatred.  This is the reason the HCNZ has an upstander campaign.

This year, the HCNZ will send teachers from around NZ to Yad Vashem in Israel, so they can upskill in teaching the Holocaust. They will return, like previous teachers we have sent, to teach many more educators and to teach children throughout NZ about the Holocaust.

The HCNZ will extend its reach teaching thousands of Kiwi kids about the Holocaust, and asking them to be upstanders.  As chair of the Centre, I want to aim to more than double the number of children we reached this year and to do so every year, until every NZ child learns about the Holocaust.

The Anne Frank travelling exhibition will go to more centers throughout this year. 

The children’s Holocaust memorial with its 1.5 million buttons for each child murdered, will continue to travel the country.  

The translation of the Diary of Anne Frank into Te Reo Maori will be heavily marketed and provided free to many schools.

The HCNZ will collaborate with others to ensure that the international Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s campaign against antisemitism is accepted globally, including importantly here in NZ.

I look around and I see the faces of so many people who have supported the work of the Centre by working with us, volunteering, speaking to schools and community groups, by giving us vital funds.  We thank you so sincerely for your support and ask that you continue to support us, now it’s unfortunately needed more than ever.

Today I think of those lucky enough to survive and be liberated and I think of those not liberated.  I think of Ruzena Pongerova, my great Aunt, who lived with her dad and step mother in the village of Krajne, Czechoslovakia.  Her deportation order was date stamped 28 March 1942.  She was 29 and was on one of the earliest transports to Auschwitz.  

When the Soviet troops arrived nearly 3 years later, she was not liberated. She had, like so many others, already perished.

For Ruzena, for the 6 million, for our children and their future, we gather together to remember, to dedicate ourselves to being upstanders, to fight antisemitism and prejudice, to make NZ a better place.  Never again.