International Holocaust Remembrance Day – Private Members’ Business
6 Sep | '2022
I rise to speak in support of the member for Macnamara’s motion on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Can I also say I’m sorry to hear of your loss—the recent loss of your grandmother.
As many members have outlined here today, it has been 77 years since the liberation of Auschwitz. The appalling treatment of minority groups during World War II, including those of the Jewish faith, is something we can never forget. And yet, sadly, we’ve seen examples of antisemitism on the rise in both Australia and abroad. I was disgusted during the 2019 and 2022 federal elections to see swastikas and racial slurs graffitied across election materials. I wish I could say it was an isolated incident, but indeed it was not.
Earlier this year, the Australian Jewish community in my own electorate of Moncrieff were subjected to despicable antisemitic attacks as they gathered to remember the Holocaust. I was among them. Poles outside Temple Shalom in Isle of Capri were covered with flyers containing swastikas and vile anti Jewish slurs. Flyers were also dropped in the letterboxes of local houses, including the home of a member of my community whose family survived the Holocaust. Those symbols and that behaviour have no place in Australia or anywhere else. Many families, including that of my good friend and former colleague Josh Frydenberg, who has been mentioned already in this place, have been the target of disgusting antisemitic attacks.
About 27,000 Holocaust survivors settled in Australia after World War II, making Australia one of the most popular destinations for survivors after Israel itself. These families came to Australia to seek refuge and a better life for themselves and future generations, and we remain determined to keep it that way. There’s no place for antisemitism here in Australia or around the world, as I stated.
I wish to highlight a little bit of my own experience of visiting a concentration camp in West Germany. In the heart of Bavaria stand the remains, and a replica, of the Dachau concentration camp, which was the first camp built by the Nazis. The concentration camp was in operation for 12 years, from 1933 to 1945, and it took 206,206 prisoners, with deaths to the number of 31,951. The crematoria remain today for visitors to see and to feel. I say ‘feel’ because there’s a chill that comes over one—an overwhelming sadness and fear, and confusion and disbelief that this happened in history.
Our good hosts in Germany at the time included a German woman whose grandparents hid Jews in their barn for very many years. A lucky few escaped on the death march through a little town called Puch to the Dachau concentration camp, and her family were kind enough, at their own risk, to see a few Jews through the Holocaust. While I and my partner went into the camp, she stayed in the car for fear that she would feel too ill to walk through the gates, which say, ‘Arbeit macht frei.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. That work did not set those Jews free. Other groups, such as Catholics, socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, LGBTIQ people, people of colour, people with disabilities and Romani—Gypsies—were made to wear badges that labelled them as political prisoners, as criminals, as homosexuals, as immigrants, as Jews or as idiots.
In 2021, there were 447 antisemitic incidents recorded in Australia. In May 2021 alone there were 88 antisemitic incidents, the highest monthly total ever in our country’s history. This is not the Australia we want to be. It’s one of the reasons why the coalition invested significant funding to establish Holocaust educational centres or museums around the country. Every state and territory in Australia will soon have a museum to recognise the Shoah.
I would like to acknowledge the late Eddie Jaku OAM, a Holocaust survivor who founded the Sydney Jewish Museum. He was tattooed by the Nazis with the number 72338. Eddie’s story is one of suffering but also one of happiness. We must ensure our future generations learn from the atrocities committed during the Holocaust. Those stories will live on with us to ensure those atrocities never occur again.