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From a tragic past to a better future

Opinion Piece

Date : 26 January 2021

Author: The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP & Josh Burns MP

Publication: The Age

The Holocaust was not just a crime committed against the Jewish people, it was a crime against humanity. Roma, Sinti, homosexuals, people with disabilities, Jehovah’s Witnesses, political and religious leaders were all victims of the evil, brutal Nazi killing machine.

By the end of the war, 6 million Jews were murdered, including 1.5 million children.

If a minute’s silence was observed for each victim, the silence would last more than 11 years. It was the darkest hour of mankind that forced the international community to pledge ‘‘never again”.

But with time, memories fade, events are forgotten and most of those who bore witness are no longer here to tell their stories. This is why January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is so important. It marks the day in 1945 that the largest concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, was liberated by the Soviet Army. It is a day we honour the memories of the innocent who were murdered.

When US General Dwight Eisenhower liberated the concentration camps and saw the death and destruction caused by Nazi forces, he said there would come a time when the people of the world would not believe what had occurred and would deny the Holocaust ever happened. We need to work together to prevent such historical revisionism taking hold and better educate the community about the lessons of the past.

It was a message former prime minister Paul Keating also conveyed in 1994 when he opened a Children of the Holocaust exhibition at the Australian War Memorial. Keating said the exhibition was so important because it ‘‘forces us to think, forces us to remember. It reminds us of how profoundly important it is to keep alive the memory and forever reaffirm the reality of the Holocaust.”

This is why federal, state and territory governments, regardless of their political persuasion, are joining forces in a bipartisan way to support the establishment and upgrading of Holocaust museums around the country, promoting tolerance and understanding while combating racism and anti-Semitism. Every Australian can and should have the opportunity to learn what happened.

Holocaust education should be taught in Australian classrooms so the children of today and tomorrow learn from the past and work towards a brighter, more tolerant and inclusive future.

Both of us have had families who perished in the Holocaust. The Frydenberg family lost greatgrandparents and great-aunts but were also fortunate to have a greataunt, Mary Frydenberg, survive. Every day she lived was a miracle, but it was with her history and scars. And her own number tattooed onto her arm from time in Auschwitz.

My wife Amie’s grandmother survived but lost both her parents and nine siblings. My wife’s grandfather lost his mother and eight siblings.

Gerda Cohen, the grandmother of Josh Burns, was four when she fled Hitler’s Germany in October 1938. It was the week before Kristallnacht. While she was one of the lucky ones, her grandparents and extended family were not as fortunate. They were among the first to be sent to the Auschwitz death camp. Our families’ stories are not unique, but reflect the background of a generation who fled persecution arriving in Australia to seek a better life.

We have seen the consequences of ignorance and hate. We have seen the crimes that began with dehumanising one’s fellow countrymen. But this experience has instilled in us a deep commitment to multiculturalism and diversity. We differ in our political membership but we share a pride in the many cultures, religions and identities that make up Australia.

It is here in our great country that many survivors were welcomed and found peace. There is no defence for what took place. But by learning from history and by promoting action, not indifference, we all have a role to play in ensuring that ‘‘never again” means exactly that. On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, we political opponents come together with a shared message of humanity, history and the rejection of hate.

Josh Frydenberg is federal Treasurer and the Liberal member for Kooyong. Josh Burns is the Labor member for Macnamara.

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