Published: Wed 30 Nov 2016

A new permanent display titled The Holocaust: witnesses and survivors has opened at the Australian War Memorial. It tells the story of the Holocaust through the experiences of several survivors who later made lives in post-war Australia.

Dr Brendan Nelson, Director of the Memorial, said The Holocaust: witnesses and survivors is a much-needed addition to the Australian War Memorial’s Second World War galleries.

“This horrific event changed the world forever and we now live in its shadow. No human being, no Australian who believes in the dignity of man, of freedom and democratic principles, should ever allow – through neglectful indifference – these events, these people, their lives and stories, to be forgotten,” Dr Nelson said.

“In a world in dealing with the mass movement of people, refugees, the persecution of political, religious and ethnic minorities, and the debate of euthanasia, human kind must never forget the extermination of six million people”, said Dr Nelson.

“The Holocaust and its impact is also an Australian story. Between 20,000 and 35,000 survivors of the genocide made new homes in Australia. Some already had family in Australia, and some were attracted by the fact that Australia was as far from Europe as they could possibly go. They embraced their new lives and made substantial contributions to all aspects of Australian life and society.”

The exhibition has been developed by the Australian War Memorial with the support of the Jewish Holocaust Centre. It includes over 85 collection items from both institutions. Many of these items are original documentation from Jewish men, women and children who survived ghettos, and concentration and extermination camps.

The launch was attended by members of the Australian Jewish community including 86-year-old Irma Hanner who survived Theresienstadt, a concentration camp and ghetto in Czechoslovakia.

The display features the artwork of the official war artist Alan Moore, who accompanied British troops as they liberated the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

From 1941 to 1945, predominantly Jews, but also Gypsies and political prisoners were systematically murdered in the deadliest genocide in history. The Holocaust was the state-sponsored persecution and murder of 6 million European Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. It was one of the most defining events of the twentieth century.

This exhibition reveals the extremes of humanity’s capacity for evil, as well as its spirit of endurance and survival.

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