04 801 9480
Call us Today
Personal reflection by Vera Egermayer at the commemoration of Yom HaShoah in Wellington on 11 April 2018
As I listen to these readings from children’s holocaust diaries and as I hear their voices through the voices of today’s young people … I remember a very dear friend who also kept such a diary.
Chava Pressburger was fourteen years of age when she was deported to Terezin. I was four. Miraculously, neither to us were sent on to Auschwitz and neither of us succumbed to typhoid which was rampant in the camp. We both lived to be liberated in May 1945, returned to Prague, subsequently emigrating …I to New Zealand and Chava to Israel where she became a world-renowned artist and treasured holocaust witness.
Chava’s brother Petr Ginz an exceptionally talented boy whose diary, many writings, poems, novels and artworks live on to inspire new generations, was one of the one and a half million children murdered. He was sixteen. His gifts to humanity would have been immeasurable had he been allowed to live.
The last entry in Chava’s diary, two years after the war ended was
Petr se nevratil
Petr did not come back.
Chava was always haunted by her brother’s death. She told me that she tried to imagine what he felt as was herded into the gas chamber. We will never know. We will never know what any of them felt when those fake showers were turned on. No diary can tell us that.
But those of us who escaped that fate and are still here as the last messengers from the past, remember what it felt like to be a Jewish child living in the shadow of death. We were too small to record our feelings in diaries but they are etched on our souls. Yes, as a tiny child I knew fear, hunger and isolation but worst of all I saw my parents living in fear, day after day, humiliated and powerless. And that memory is indelible and inescapable.
In the first poem read this evening we listened to the words
“From the ashes hear our plea
And we are here today to answer that plea.
We read from the diaries We light a candle We pronounce their names We say a prayer and we build a memorial.
I can tell you this evening that this memorial is being built right now…The New Zealand Children’s Holocaust Memorial- from children for children. A scale model is on display in this room. We know that caring hands collected 1.5 million buttons.. counted them …washed them and are now bringing them together in a unique memorial sculpture which will travel around New Zealand telling the stories of those broken lives …Ann Frank …Petr Ginz….and my little cousin Pepicek Mautner
They say that it takes a village to raise a child…let us remember that it takes a community to raise a memorial.
80 Webb Street
04 801 9480
Monday: 10am - 1pm
Tuesday: 10am - 1pm
Wednesday: 10am - 1pm
Thursday: 10am - 1pm
Friday: 10am - 1pm
Sunday: 10am - 1pm