A statement from the ECAJ on International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2012

Jan 27, 2012

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”

United Nations Holocaust Memorial Day 2011

May 21, 2011

The Jewish Holocaust Centre invited me to their United Nations Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration ceremony on January 27 2011 to light a candle in memory of the homosexual victims of the Holocaust.  Many thousands of homosexual and bisexual men were captured and murdered by the Nazis simply for the crime of expressing their love for other men.  I attended the ceremony with my partner Gregory.

Michael Barnett lighting a candle at the 2011 UNHMD Commemoration Ceremory

Michael Barnett lighting a candle at the 2011 UNHMD Commemoration Ceremory

This is the second time in recent years, to the best of my knowledge, that the JHC has included a representative of the GLBT community to participate in their UNHMD ceremony.  I was similarly invited a few years back for their ceremony at the JHC premises in Elsternwick.  It was a genuine honour to have been able to participate in both.

Audience at the 2011 UNHMD Commemoration Ceremony

Audience at the 2011 UNHMD Commemoration Ceremony

Take a few moments to read the page in the JHC newsletter and view the photos from the ceremony.  Think about the genocidal hate in this world that is perpetrated and the people who are needlessly killed because of it.  Also think about the people who say they won’t stand for any intolerance against homosexual men and women and yet continue to perpetrate the intolerance themselves.

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