A statement by Peter Wertheim, Executive Director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2012:
“January 27 is the date, in 1945, when the largest Nazi death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, was liberated by Soviet troops. It is a devastatingly appropriate day for all of us to remember and reflect upon the genocide that resulted in the annihilation of 6 million European Jews, 2 millions Gypsies (Roma and Sinti), 15.000 gays and millions of others at the hands of Nazi tyranny.
Auschwitz was not merely the final destination of many of these murdered men women and children. In a very real and terrible way it continues to symbolise the final destination – the ultimate consequence – of hatred of the other that is allowed to go unchallenged. The spectre of Auschwitz will continue to haunt the whole of humanity until it learns to free itself from the scourges of racism and other forms of hatred.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day is an opportunity for all of us to look inwards into our own hearts and minds and to resolve to confront our own prejudices. For this is where racism and other forms of hatred begin. No ideology of hatred can take root without the active participation or passive acquiescence of ordinary people.
We must never be afraid to speak out against hatred that is directed against ourselves, especially when it may be contentious or unpopular to do so. Yet we must also be sensitive enough to recognise hatred that is being directed against others and to speak out in their defence too, even when it may be contentious or unpopular to do so.
The struggle against racism and other forms of bigotry is not easy. Yet it has never been more necessary for all of us to be a part of it. As the number of survivors diminishes with time, the need for us to pass on this message to our children only grows more urgent”