House debates

Tuesday, 28 November 2023

Constituency Statements

Holocaust Remembrance

4:08 pm

Photo of Michelle Ananda-RajahMichelle Ananda-Rajah (Higgins, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Turning 'never again' into action is the baton passed down to us as post-Holocaust generations. The Jewish people are rightly seen as the custodians of Holocaust remembrance, research and education. But this cannot be taken as a free pass for the rest of us. This dark chapter and its aftershocks belong to humanity—to each and every one of us, Jewish or not.

Time and again, Holocaust survivors emphasise the importance of education. For many it has been their life's mission, which is why they have devoted their lives to telling and retelling their stories—testimonies that breathe life into the incomprehensible statistics.

For 15 years, the Gandel Foundation has taken Australian teachers on an immersive experience to Yad Vashem, the world Holocaust Remembrance Centre in Israel, where they craft lesson plans tailored to their communities. With titles like 'Return to life', 'Call them by their names' and 'Courage to care', as well as 'The space between', students learn how to be modern-day upstanders.

The children return home to teach their parents. This is the force multiplier in action. And what do they learn? That the road to death camps was cultivated by populism, demagoguery, discrimination, dehumanisation, misinformation and disinformation, and scapegoating. They are universal themes—not unique to the Holocaust. They're red flags that we can only recognise if we have an eye that been trained on the past. At an annual ceremony, the teachers describe their journey and outcome, but the most striking thing was their calibre: thoughtful, articulate and commanding. It is only through education that we become kinder, wiser and able to critically unpack what we see and hear so that, if we are again faced with the fork in the road, our internal compass will not fail us.

It is fitting that this ceremony was held at the newly opened Melbourne Holocaust Museum. The Melbourne Holocaust Museum relies on the generosity and volunteerism of Holocaust survivors—people like Abram Goldberg, who endured the horrors of the Lodz Ghetto and the Auschwitz concentration camp. His family were murdered. Now, at 98 years old, Abram tells his story to tens of thousands of people, many of them schoolchildren, at the Melbourne Holocaust Museum. It took decades for many Holocaust survivors to talk about the horrors they experienced, but never has it been more important for the lessons of the Holocaust to be heeded. As Abram says, he will continue to share his story until the last time he speaks.