New Zealand Holocaust Timeline
This timeline covers events that took place in New Zealand from 1933 to 1945, and after the Holocaust from 1946 - 2011.
1933 – 1945
- A report is submitted to the National Government by Major-General William Sinclair-Burgess, calling for a six year programme to strengthen the country’s land and air forces.
- Labour government, under Prime Minister Michael Savage, is elected.
- Trade between New Zealand and the Third Reich increases over this time period. Between 1935 and 1938 exports of wool from New Zealand to Germany grow fivefold.
- Refugees seeking to flee Europe apply for entry into New Zealand. Approximately 727 refugee entry permits are granted.
- In response to the German re-militarisation of the Rhineland, the president of the Labour Party describes Hitler’s action as ‘a protest.’
- New Zealand signs a most-favoured-nation trade agreement with Germany. It does this despite British opposition to the agreement.
- Walter Nash visits Berlin. In Parliament Mark Fagan, the leader of the Legislative Council, praises the welcome Nash was given in Germany.
- New Zealand attends the Evian Conference.
- Prime Minister Savage telegrams Neville Chamberlain congratulating him on the outcome of the Munich Conference.
- After the events of Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass) Viscount Galway, Governor-General, states at a reception:
- ‘The events in Germany, particularly in the last few days, almost cause one to despair of peace.’
- In October it is reported by the Speaker of the House of Representatives that New Zealand is willing to open its doors to Czechoslovakian refugees, after Prime Minister Joseph Savage states that aid will be give to the refugees.
- New Zealand newspapers denounce the German seizure of Czechoslovakia, one calling it ‘a great and terrible wrong.’
- Germany invades Poland in September. New Zealand declares war on Germany.
- In November Deputy Prime Minister Peter Fraser travels to London as New Zealand’s representative at a meeting of the dominions, to attempt to persuade Britain to open negotiations with Hitler in a ‘peace offensive.’ The move was one of futility given that a month earlier Chamberlain had firmly rejected the idea of negotiations with Hitler.
- Prime Minister Peter Fraser publicly expresses sympathy over the plight of Jews in Nazi Europe and his interest in the development of Palestine as a Jewish state.
- A Pro-Palestine Committee is formed in New Zealand, made up of various public figures and others, including clergymen.
- First Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Commemorations are held throughout New Zealand’s Jewish Community.
- Paddy Costello, a New Zealander stationed in Moscow, is the first Western reporter allowed in to the camps. He tours Auschwitz and Majdanek and published his report in March.
- Returning New Zealand war veterans publicly launch a campaign demanding the expulsion of all enemy aliens, including Jewish refugees, who arrived in this country after 1939. The campaign causes alarm in the Jewish community.
1946 – 2010
- The Constitution of UNESCO, signed on 16 November 1945, came into force on 4 November 1946. New Zealand is the second country to sign.
- New Zealand is given representation on the UNO Social and Economic Council’s Special Committee on Refugees and Displaced Persons.
- New Zealand is the twelfth nation to join the International Refugee Organisation. Deputy Prime Minister Walter Nash signs the I.R.O. Constitution.
- Nation of Israel is founded. New Zealand official stance towards its foundation is supportive.
- New Zealand signs, but does not ratify, the UN Genocide Convention. The Convention was introduced in 1948 as a response to the Holocaust.
- An incident is reported in which a young Polish woman jumped overboard on a refugee ship bound for New Zealand. This was because of ill treatment, possible anti-Semitism, by other passengers.
- Representatives from New Zealand’s Jewish community travel to London in July to participate in a ten-day conference to consider proposals on closer liaison between the Jewish communities in Britain and the Dominions. The conference discussions include unified action against antisemitism, post-war rehabilitation, and the care of Jewish war orphans
- Yom HaShoah commemoration is inaugurated. New Zealand’s Jewish community recognises the commemoration and Yom HaShoah is commemorated every year thereafter.
- Hungarian Uprising brings about an increase in anti-Semitism in the country. Refugees from Hungary arrive in New Zealand.
- F.L. Wood’s volume of Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War is published. In it Wood notes that New Zealand was more in favour of appeasement of Germany over warfare than many had initially believed.
- The Trial of Adolf Eichmann takes place in Israel. The New Zealand Jewish Chronicle publishes reports from an exclusive source at the trial.
- New Zealand Nazi Party founded. The Party lasted for a number of decades but no longer exists.
- First prosecution in New Zealand for distributing anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi material takes place.
- It is reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Jewish refugees from the Soviet Union are to begin resettlement in other nations. A small number are to settle in New Zealand. Many refugees fled the USSR because of an increase in anti-Semitism.
- New Zealand ratifies the UN Genocide Convention.
- International gathering of Holocaust survivors takes place in Israel. Some New Zealand Holocaust survivors contribute to or participate in the gathering.
- Two former New Zealand soldiers and POWs at Theresienstadt, Gerald Fleming mills and Thomas Mottram, petition the government for recognition of their illegal incarceration and suffering, and requesting compensation for the injuries they still suffered due to their treatment.
- Their petition includes a list of 25 known New Zealand soldiers who were incarcerated in concentration camps during the war and who as of the 1980s received some form of disability pension for injuries suffered due to their treatment.
- Fortieth Anniversary Commemoration takes place in Wellington. The Prime Minister, other key figures, and members of the Jewish and wider communities take part. Holocaust exhibition takes place at Wellington City Library.
- Raoul Wallenberg Memorial plaque is established in Auckland near the Symonds Street Cemetery. The plaque is unveiled in a ceremony covered by theNew Zealand Jewish Chronicle.
- The documentary Shoah Screens at the New Zealand International Film Festival.
- Auckland Second Generation Group (for children of Holocaust survivors/refugees) is established. The group is the only of its kind in New Zealand.
- Wellington Synagogue 1990; Display Opens. It is located at the Wellington Jewish Community Centre on Webb Street.
- New Zealand 1990 celebrations take place nationwide. As part of the celebrations Thomas Kenneally speaks at the Wellington Jewish Community Centre about his book Schindler’s Ark.
- The controversy over Nazi collaborators and war criminals potentially residing in New Zealand hits its peak. Television news programme Frontline screens an item entitled Nazi Criminals in NZ?
- Holocaust Memorial is established at the Greys Avenue Synagogue in Auckland. An addition to the memorial is unveiled the next year.
- Women Holocaust Survivors Oral History Project takes place. Funding comes to the project because of 1993 being the Centenary of Women’s Suffrage.
- Holocaust memorial is unveiled at Waikumete Cemetery, Auckland. In 1997 ashes from Auschwitz are interned at the memorial.
- Holocaust Memorial is unveiled in the Jewish section of Makara Cemetery, Wellington. The unveiling ceremony is attended by members of the Jewish community.
- Fiftieth Anniversary commemoration is held at the Israeli Embassy in Wellington.
- The Waitangi Tribunal publishes the Taranaki Report. The Report used the term ‘holocaust’ when describing the treatment of Taranaki Maori during the colonial period.
- The Children of Theresienstadt travelling exhibition visits New Zealand. The exhibition comes with an educational booklet and travels around the country until 1999.
- The Holocaust Gallery at Auckland War Memorial Museum opens. The Museum provides school groups with an educational booklet regarding the Holocaust and the Gallery’s contents.
- The first travelling Anne Frank exhibition comes to New Zealand and tours nationwide.
- The exhibition Precious Legacy: the Nazi Confiscation of Jewish Treasures is exhibited at Auckland Museum. The exhibit contained treasures from the Jewish Museum in Prague, which was saved from destruction in 1942 when the Nazis invaded the city and seized the items.
- Tariana Turia remarks to a Psychologists Conference regarding a Maori ‘holocaust.’ The resulting media and public argument revolves around the issue of freedom of speech in academia.
- Joel Hayward’s Master of Arts thesis The Fate of the Jews in German Hands becomes available after being embargoed since 1993. The resulting scandal regarding the nature of the thesis and whether it is tantamount to Holocaust denial lasts until 2003.
- A scandal erupts at Waikato University when it emerges that a mature student, Hans Joachim Kupka, planning a PhD about the German language in New Zealand, was discovered to be a frequent poster on far-right websites of anti-Semitic Holocaust denying comments.
- The book Mixed Blessings: New Zealand Children of Holocaust Survivors Remember was published. It is a compilation of reminiscences from people whose parents were either refugees from Europe or survived the Holocaust, and also includes family recipes from each contributor.
- Desecration of Jewish Graves in Wellington. The desecration is seemingly brought about by the arrest of alleged Mossad agents for trying to obtain New Zealand passports.
- David Irving, the well-known British Holocaust denier, is banned from entering New Zealand.
- John Tamihere, then-Labour MP, is recorded in an interview making comments regarding how he was ‘sick’ of hearing about the Holocaust.
- The Wellington Holocaust Education and Research Centre opens. It is an outgrowth of the original Holocaust gallery and the opening ceremony is attended by many, including Governor General Anand Santayanand.
- Roel van Leuween’s Master’s thesis regarding an obscure far right group removed from Waikato University’s shelves because the main person of focus in the thesis, well known far right figure Kerry Bolton, laid an official complaint with the University.
- Concert commemorating the seventieth anniversary of Kristallnacht(the Night of Broken Glass) takes place in Wellington.
- The exhibition Anne Frank: a History for Today opens. It travels throughout the country until 2012.
- The Wellington Holocaust Research and Education Centre becomes the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand.