Speech to senior high school students on the occasion of the
International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Holocaust, 27 January 2014
Australian High Commissioner to Ghana, Joanna Adamson
Dear colleagues from Germany, Israel and the UN, students and staff:
Thanks for attending this event to mark the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.
This morning’s program has been organised by the office of the United Nations in Ghana. The Australian High Commission is pleased to be able to support this important project.
You might wonder, what is the connection between the Holocaust in twentieth century Europe - in which millions of people died - and an Australian film from the twenty-first century, with characters including a cute cartoon koala bear called Blinky Bill?
Well, as this film will show you, survivors of the Holocaust scattered around the world, even as far as Australia.
This film tells the story of one survivor.
I hope, as you watch it, you can put yourself in the shoes of the little boy in Poland who became the old man in Australia. Or, put yourself in the shoes of the Australian youngsters as they listen and learn from their grandfather.
It is now almost 75 years since Germany invaded Poland at the beginning of the second world war. But it is important now, and always, to remember this catastrophe.
The genocide perpetrated against the Jewish people during the Holocaust was the most awful of crimes.
It cost millions of people their lives, and caused untold damage and destruction to the lives of many millions more.
Its effects have been profound for a number of generations, and continue to be felt today.
The Holocaust made clear the devastating consequences of persecution on the grounds of race or religion.
(In this film, sometimes you have to listen quite hard to the main character, to realise just how devastating things were for him and for others in those days).
The Holocaust was the evil work of ordinary people. Decades later, in Rwanda, ordinary people turned on each other in another genocide.
That’s why ordinary people like us need to learn these stories. We need to remember how important it is to protect the rights of everybody, not just ourselves. We need to rememember how important it is to treat people fairly, including when they are different from ourselves.
And we must practise this again and again so that, when we are tested, we can get it right.
Thank you once again for being here. I hope you find the film interesting, and thought-provoking, and I look forward to hearing your comments on it afterwards.