By Jason Steinberg
We all remember the images from the riots at Washington’s Capitol Hill building last month, including one notable photo of a man wearing a black t-shirt emblazoned with the words “Camp Auschwitz”. Justifiably, there was universal outrage over the trivialisation of the horrors committed at this notorious death camp.
Meanwhile, closer to home on the idyllic Gold Coast, an auction house was preparing to sell a ‘genuine’ Nazi flag with the obligatory swastika. This symbol represents the epitome of evil due to the systematic murder of 6 million Jews, as well as 5 million other minorities comprised of gypsies, people with disabilities, Communists, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals.
The 27th of January was officially proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The date marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and what many thought was the end of the evil Nazi regime and racial hatred.
Sadly, hate remains and thrives globally and, distressingly, in our lucky country, including our own Sunshine State.
Almost on a weekly basis, we receive reports from Queenslanders about incidents of anti-Semitism – acts of hatred, prejudice and incitement against Jews. These take many forms: a swastika daubed on a wall, a racial slur by an employer, or images of a Nazi salute by Brisbane members of a right-wing group on social media.
It’s worse in Sydney and Melbourne that experience and record daily incidents of anti-Semitism.
That’s why more than ever, we all need to stop and remember the Holocaust: a time in history that can never be erased, the lives never returned. It is imperative for any civilised nation to make sure the personal accounts and stories – those which tell of the human devastation caused by evil and, conversely, the triumph of goodness and decency – must be shared with future generations.
In an Australian first, a pre-recorded online event featuring thought leaders and Holocaust survivors from across Australia, including 99-year-old Queenslander Dr. Bert Klug, will participate in a moving candle-lighting ceremony to ensure the memory of the 6 million Jewish children, men and women murdered in the Holocaust is never forgotten.
This online event will be illuminating, emotional and will, no doubt, encourage people to remember.
However, will events like these or the growing interest from public and private schools to teach their students about the Holocaust, ensure people do not forget? Will they alone help to make our multicultural society more tolerant?
Maybe, but the establishment of the Queensland Holocaust Museum and Education Centre will enshrine the messages, help people understand, remember and hear the stories they need to, like Dr Klugs – thanks to $7.5m in combined funding commitments last year from the Federal and State government, as well as the Brisbane City Council.
The museum will carry important messages of the Holocaust, and other genocides, that will be an enduring reminder of what can happen when a seemingly sophisticated society turns to evil.
The museum will be a permanent catalyst for empowering individuals to stand up against hatred and prejudice, with the aim of preventing such violence and marginalisation from happening again.
Jason Steinberg is the Vice President of the Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies