I have been coming to annual Holocaust Memorial services since I was appointed Race Relations Commissioner.
A year ago I shared a taxi van up here with Vera Egermayer and several other women who are here today.
Our driver was a rude man. Impatient and grumpy.
And yet at the end of our trip, instead of moaning about him Vera turned to me and said:
This is clearly an unhappy man. I feel sorry for him and his sadness.
I’m sharing this story with you all today because Vera’s empathy for a stranger is the kind of thing the world needs more of today.
Professor William Spurlin, from Brunel University, London, gave a presentation at Myers Hall, WJCC on the treatment of lesbians and gay men during the Holocaust, a little-publicised aspect of the genocide. He was an engaging speaker, relating the persecution of GLBT persons to the rigid gender roles proscribed by Nazi ideology, and locating sexuality at its intersections with race, gender, and eugenics within the National Socialist belief system.
His talk covered life for lesbians and gay men before the Holocaust in the Weimar period and discussed the law against homosexuality. Lesbians were impacted somewhat less, in that they could still bear children, and so be seen as contributing to the Nazi ideal of womanhood, but this did not mean that they were not as systematically persecuted by the Nazis.
The hyper-masculinity of the Nazi male ideal made anything outside of that a threat, and therefore even homosexual behaviour within the SS was deemed disgusting – some SS officers who were gay were murdered. For gay prisoners in the camps, their discrimination continued, and they were discriminated against by other prisoners as well as by those in authority.
Professor Spurlin has written extensively on the politics of gender and sexual dissidence and is widely known for his work on queer theory.
- Erica Rothschild
On the 25th of February, Professor Arthur Shostak, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, gave a very thought-provoking speech about 'Appreciating the Help Story in the Holocaust'.
The talk drew on acts of stealth altruism as recounted in almost all of 195 survivor memoirs studied by Professor Shostak, many interviews with survivors, and study visits to 43 Holocaust Museums. These acts included smuggling soup to others, the substitution for others too ill to survive another day of slave labour, the smuggling of mail and propping up of ill prisoners at roll call.
What is a Help Story? 'Help Story' refers to the very varied efforts made by some European Jewish victims during the Holocaust. 'Stealth Altruism' refers to unpaid, secret, high-risk caring efforts Jewish victims made, with no hope of reward, knowing that this behaviour was prohibited by the Gestapo and SS, and would be harshly punished if detected. To one survivor, this was proof that “even in the perverse environment of Auschwitz absolute goodness was a possibility”.
Shostak made the case that recognition of this high-risk care (the Help Story) is inseparable from the perpetrator atrocities and needs to be included in the memorialisation of the Holocaust.
As the late Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis maintained, our effort to memorialize the Shoah is best understood as “a sacred act that elicits a double mandate — to expose the depth of evil and to raise goodness from the dust of amnesia.”
You are invited to the Kristallnacht commemoratio
An evening of rarely heard music performed by members of the NZ School of Music and the NZ Symphony Orchestra, who have put together an excellent selection of music written in ghettos, concentration camps, and post war. The programme includes the world premier of Richard Fuchs’ Song for Simeon and the NZ premier of Lori Laitman’s Vedem Songs. This concert is about human experience told in music.
Friends & volunteers $25
Complimentary drink served upon arrival
Tickets available on Ticketek, and can also be purchased at the Michael Fowler Centre Box office.
"Shalom and welcome to Parliament. We are here because today is United Nations International Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorated each year on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz/Birkenau in Poland on this day in 1945.
Last year Annette King and I represented New Zealand in Auschwitz for the 70 anniversary commemoration. It was a sombre occasion attended by a number of survivors as well as representatives of many governments. I will never forget walking from the gatehouse to the far end of the camp to lay a wreath at the conclusion of the ceremony accompanied by, among others, Josh Frydenberg MP for Kooyong and a minister in Malcolm Turnbull’s Cabinet. Josh’s family lost relatives in Auschwitz.
71 years have passed and the Holocaust continues to be discussed and studied. Every year there are more books and films which consider this most grotesque event in all of human history. For example, just two days ago I flew on Lufthansa from Frankfurt to San Francisco to New Zealand. I watched an outstanding German film called .
Anthony Haas is the Foundation Director of the Centre for Citizenship Education (CCE), associate member of the New Zealand Parliamentary Press Gallery, foreign correspondent and a prolific author.
His new book Being Palangi: My Pacific Journey tells of the ongoing development of New Zealand as a Pacific nation. In this book, Haas explores little known stories of his paternal grandfather who was the Democratic Party leader in the German Parliament in the 1920s, through to his father’s escape to New Zealand in the 1930s. The memoir is about multiculturalism. It includes stories about how people can work together to make the world a better place.
Chapter Two of Tony’s memoir can be accessed here.
Amos Hausner was eleven when the Eichmann trial gripped Israel, the Jewish world and beyond. Old enough for such an event to leave an indelible mark and even more so when your father is the Attorney General and prosecutor, and key witnesses break their silence and descend upon your family home to tell their stories.
The Eichmann trial exposed genocide on a large scale. It shocked the world with the precision and the brutality and gave faces and voice to the sufferings of ordinary people. Legally it highlighted universal jurisdiction and was pivotal in the creation of the International Criminal Court. There were also legal issues of impartiality, the argument of "following orders" and the defence of an "Act of State".
Amos Hausner followed his father into the law and carved a successful legal career in his own right creating precedents inconstitutional, criminal, civil and administrative law.
He continues to take the messages of the Eichmann trial around the world.
Amos Hausner is a former Supreme Court Judge and Attorney General of the World Zionist Organisation, Current Board Member of the Massuah Institute for the study of the Holocaust and former member on Jerusalem's Hebrew University Disciplinary Tribunal.
Stream the recording of his talk in Wellington on 27th March 2015: http://bit.ly/1GdMT3y
I am only here today because my mother Ilse, and her sister Herta survived Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Our immediate family was one of the lucky ones – we survived – nearly 60 in my mother’s extended family did not.
When we talk about The Holocaust, it is often in terms of the numbers - 6 million killed, 1.5 million of them children. It is easy to say a number, without getting the impact of the scale of the suffering.
Minister the Hon Maggie Barry; Their Excellencies the Ambassadors for Israel and Germany, both of whom most effectively represent their countries and, as with their predecessors, have always supported this Day, and other Ambassadors and High Commissioners present today at this international commemoration; the Mayor of Wellington, Celia Wade-Brown, and the Chair of the Greater Wellington Regional Council, Fran Wilde; leaders and members of our Jewish Community and, of course, survivors of the Holocaust; Dame Susan Devoy, the Race Relations Commissioner; Ladies and Gentlemen.
The Holocaust Centre of New Zealand hosted Aubrey Pomerance, Chief Archivist of the Jewish Museum Berlin, for a talk in Wellington on Sunday 14th December about the Museum’s architecture, exhibitions, and education programmes. Aubrey presented a showcase of the Museum’s buildings & exhibition spaces. The Museum is a cultural landmark, referencing the Holocaust, the period of National Socialism, Jewish history & identity. The two buildings designed by Daniel Libeskind create an immersive environment of light, space & time.
The Museum archive holds over 1,500 family bequests, and maintains a focus on original materials in this increasingly digital climate. Through their archival education workshops, pupils examine documents from the archives to form connections between objects, relationships & narratives. Building a powerful dialogue between pupils and Holocaust survivors, the Museum undertakes the challenges of representing insights into the Holocaust and the period of National Socialism.
View the presentation (PDF) and listen to the recorded talk:
David is the Chairman of the Wellington Regional Jewish Council and holds the well earned position as a much respected leader of the Jewish Community in New Zealand. David was appointed as the Honorary Consul from Israel to New Zealand in 2003 and is the only Jewish Kiwi to receive the World Zionist Organisation's highly esteemed Jerusalem Prize. David is a constant supporter and Friend of the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand.
You can listen to the talk he gave at the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand Speaker Series 2014, 30th October 2014: