Today is the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. There isn’t really a salutation for a day like this “Happy International Day of Commemoration…” doesn’t really work.
About the Day:
It is not exactly the happiest of days to begin the UN calendar with but it is extremely important to remember the victims of the holocaust so we can be sure to learn something from their deaths.
This year the focus of the day is on human dignity. The holocaust was horrific not only because of the massive loss of life but, also due to the treatment of people in concentration camps.
I’ve visited Dachau and Aushcwitz, still, I cannot comprehend what it would have been like to live and die in a place like that. One story which really bought this idea to life was that the “schizer captains” were considered lucky. These were the prisoners in charge of emptying and cleaning the toilets. In normal circumstances this would be considered a terrible job but in Auschwitz the prisoners with this job were better off than others, they escaped beatings from guards as the guards did not want to go near the prisoners who spent all day in human excrement. They also worked inside where they weren’t exposed to the elements like those doing hard manual labour, therefore, often surviving longer.
In my little corner of the world being reminded of the importance of human dignity seems to be especially important. The way the Australian government is treating asylum seekers shows very little respect for human dignity and rights. Detention centres, such as the one on Nauru, are reminiscent of concentration camps. It is heartbreaking to see that a modern democracy is willing to commit such gross violations of human rights. As a kiwi I feel incredibly embarrassed on behalf of the New Zealand government which is not willing to step up and address this issue. We have always had a close relationship with Australia and it is disappointing to see that our Prime Minister does not take advantage of our position of influence for example, the failure to condemn Australia at the UN Human Rights Council.
Being in New Zealand I was a little stuck as to how I should commemorate this day. There were not a lot of victims of the holocaust in NZ so we do not have a lot of memorials. I discovered that we do have a holocaust centre in Wellington so if you’re in the capital you should check it out. In Hamilton (don’t hold it against me) I had to make do with the War Memorial. I placed some stones at the base of this to commemorate all those who lost their lives in the Holocaust. Just a small gesture but today the holocaust victims have definitely been at the fore of my mind.
To finish on a lighter note 2 fun facts.
- Filming is not allowed in Auschwitz. To film the train going through the iconic gate Steven Spielberg built a replica camp on the other side of the fence when filming Schindler’s List. The irony being that when they are leaving camp in the film they are actually entering.
- Because of the time difference New Zealand was the first country to declare war on Germany. I always laugh thinking of how “scared” the Nazi’s must have been knowing they would be up against the mighty New Zealand.
See you on the 4th of Feb for another cheery occasion; World Cancer Day.