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”


Josh Frydenberg and the UN Holocaust Memorial Day 2012

Jan 26, 2012

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is January 27.  The Jewish Holocaust Centre in Melbourne, Australia held a commemoration for this solemn occasion on Thursday January 25, 2012 (to avoid a clash with the Jewish Sabbath).

In keeping with the tradition of having a representative of the GLBT community to attend the commemoration, Colin Krycer of Aleph Melbourne accepted the invitation to light a candle in memory of the tens of thousands of homosexual men who were murdered at the hands of the Nazis.

Colin Krycer lights a candle in memory of the homosexual victims of the Holocaust

Colin Krycer lights a candle in memory of the homosexual victims of the Holocaust

Federal member for Kooyong, Josh Frydenberg MP, delivered the keynote address on the evening.

Josh Frydenberg MP delivers the keynote address

Josh Frydenberg MP delivers the keynote address

I feel compelled to express my reservations with the selection of Josh Frydenberg as keynote speaker at this event.  My reservations stem from the fact that Josh Frydenberg wishes to deny equal rights for homosexual Australians and calls for a second-class status for the registration of same-sex relationships.

My view is that marriage is a unique relationship between a man and a woman. It is much more than a simple debate about preferred terminology.

Relationships between same sex couples are equally special but nevertheless by definition different.

These relationships are to be respected and valued for the love that they bring and the families that they build. However, the term marriage should not apply.

Civil unions, however, should be an alternative.

I know many people in our community, particularly those younger than me will not agree with my view on same sex marriage.

I hope they respect my view as I do theirs.

In the Holocaust homosexual men were denied equality and treated as lesser citizens, with reduced rights and status.  There is no place for any discrimination against homosexual men and women in Australian society.

Aside from the possibility of a same-sex couple producing a biological child belonging to both parents, same-sex relationships are equal in every way to opposite-sex relationships, including those opposite-sex relationships where a biological child is not a viable or a desired option.

I ask Josh Frydenberg to understand this reality and to join the increasing ranks of Australians who understand that marriage equality, a definition of marriage that does not discriminate on the basis of gender, is in the best interests of all Australians.


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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