War Memorial honours victims and survivors of the Holocaust

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A new display at the Australian War Memorial pays homage to victims of the Holocaust and honours thousands of survivors who made Australia their home after the end of World War II.

A new permanent display has been launched at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra to pay tribute to victims of the Holocaust.

While marking the deaths of six million Jews, the exhibit also includes stories of the thousands of survivors that made new homes in Australia after the end of World War II.

Developed by the Australian War Memorial and the Jewish Holocaust Centre, the exhibit expands on the small number of relics previously on display. 

"The small exhibition which is in the Second World War galleries, which is very important has [only] seven objects in it. While it is important, I was embarrassed of the inadequacy of that,” said the Australian War Memorial’s Director Dr Brendan Nelson.

“We now have 85 objects on permanent display in this gallery,” he said.

Between 20,000 and 35,000 Holocaust survivors resettled in Australia between 1945 and 1960.

The exact number is unknown due to people’s fears after the War about identifying as Jewish.

Holocaust exhibition
Holocaust survivor Irma Hanner, 86, displays photographs of her kindergarten class at the opening of the new Holocaust exhibition in Canberra, Nov. 30, 2016. (AAP)
AAP

The opening of the exhibit was a particularly special moment for 86-year-old  Irma Hanner who migrated to Australia in 1949 with her aunt and uncle.

Of the 250 at her school, she and just five others were still alive in 1945.

As Germany's persecution of its Jewish citizens escalated, 12-year-old Irma was deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp and ghetto, in what was then Czechoslovakia.

It's thought more than 40,000 died at Theresienstadt, before it was liberated by the Russians in 1945.

"For two years from the beginning I did not cry. But then it's very hard to stop. My children call me bionic woman because I am very strong. It is very important for me to talk about it now," she said.

Irma still remembers some horrific days at the camp, recalling how people died like flies from rampant disease.

She herself survived the removal of her tonsils without anaesthetic.

Another time, all 40,000 camp inmates were paraded in mid-winter and told they wouldn't eat or sleep until 11 escapees were recaptured.

They waited a whole day and a night before the 11 young men were recaptured, then whole camp was forced to watch them be hanged as a warning.

Irma Hanner emphasised the similarities she sees in the present day, with what she witnessed in the past.

“Hate is repeating itself today. The world is in uproar again and it’s very dangerous. I think we should be very vigilant,” she said.

“It should make a difference what colour, creed or religion we should tolerate each other. We don’t need to love each other all the time but we should tolerate each other.”

Dr Nelson used examples of the current global refugee crisis and political apprehension to highlight the importance of learning from the Holocaust.

"In a world in dealing with the mass movement of people, refugees, the persecution of political, religious and ethnic minorities, we have a responsibility to remind our visitors from Australia and from overseas, of that which human kind is capable," he said.

Warren Fineberg from the Melbourne Jewish Centre said it's important to educate all Australians about the multicultural community they live in.

"They need to learn their history. It's just a little bit of time, a little bit of thought and openness to understanding what happened," he said. 

-With AAP.

 

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