Holocaust Remembrance Day, 27 January 2015, took on heightened significance as the world marked the liberation of Auschwitz 70 years ago. Having attended these occasions in Wellington over the years I knew the format: it is an occasion for speeches from dignitaries, witnesses and their families. One might think that everything had been said many times, but every year, as speakers strive to make the occasion relevant to the world we live in today, they somehow raise our consciousness, even though we already know and believe the home truths they speak of.
At the Makara Cemetery commemoration, for example, race relations commissioner Dame Susan Devoy stressed that human rights begin at home. ‘They are ours to hold and ours to lose.’ She told a story that illustrated how hate starts small, how it is born when a small child and his mother are abused on the street as they walk home from kindy. Her story was not about something that took place in Berlin or Warsaw 75 years ago, but in Mt Eden Auckland just months ago. Nor is it an isolated instance. Such attacks have been reported on New Zealand streets to Jewish and Muslim children alike.
The lesson we learned from the Holocaust is that hate starts small, on the streets we live in, at the places we shop and gather.
It grows when good people stand by and do nothing.
It’s up to everyday New Zealanders to stand up for peace and human rights right here at home. This is how we honour the past and guarantee a future we can be proud to leave our children and grandchildren.
Dame Susan’s speech can be read at http://www.hrc.co.nz/2015/01/27/holocaust-remembrance-day/