Why teach New Zealand children about the Holocaust? What relevance does the Holocaust have for New Zealanders? How did something like this happen? What can we do about it?
These and other questions are addressed at the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand located in the Wellington Jewish Community Centre at 80 Webb Street. It aims to collect and share stories of New Zealand survivors, helpers and witnesses and works to promote individual responsibility and respect for diversity and human rights. It is open daily Sunday to Friday (except for Jewish and other holidays) from 10 am to 1 pm. Telephone 801 9480.
There is a time-line showing events in Europe and events at the same time in New Zealand, folders indicating what the government knew about what was happening in Europe, what the New Zealand people knew, and what the Jewish community knew. Stories are told of New Zealand survivors of the Holocaust, their and their families’ lives before World War II, the war years, how they came to New Zealand, and their lives here post war. A letter from a New Zealand soldier details his horror at the conditions at one of the camps. Another display tells of the Deckstons, a childless Jewish couple who, seeing what was happening, travelled to Europe in the 1930s and brought 20 Jewish orphans to New Zealand.
A number of thought provoking quotations, e.g., “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing.” (Edmund Burke) are depicted on the walls of the Centre. DVDs of survivor stories can be played. The Centre’s website www.holocaustcentre.org.nz gives links to other Holocaust centres all over the world.
School groups are frequent visitors to the centre. The consequences of discrimination and bullying are readily discussed with them. Other community groups such as Probus, church groups, or Rotary clubs, as well as individual visitors are always welcome.
Jackie Pope, Bay View newsletter 63, May 2014