The children of Moriah Jewish School in Wellington are inviting children and members of the public to attend Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2010 by joining them at the Holocaust Memorial, Makara Cemetery on Wednesday 27th January at 3pm.
“In 2010 we are focusing on the 1.5 million children who were killed in the Holocaust, this is more than the total population of Auckland, the biggest city in New Zealand,” says Kessem Goldberg (12).
“We’re collecting a button for every child who lost their life and we would like to ask people to donate buttons by bringing them on the 27th January or sending them to our school.”
The remembrance ceremony is co-hosted by the NZ Holocaust Research and Education Centre, the Wellington Regional Jewish Council, B’nai Brith Unit 5187 and the NZ National Commission for UNESCO. This year free buses provided by the Wilson Funeral Home will leave parliament at 2pm and take people to the Makara cemetery.
“Through learning programmes about the Holocaust, our younger generation comes to value the importance of tolerance and freedom in a just society,” says Dr Andrew Matthews, deputy chair of the NZ National Commission for UNESCO.
“This knowledge is essential to ensure that such atrocities never take place again.”
The children embarked on their project in 2008 and in spite of initial doubts are on track to have collected 1 million buttons by January 2010. People from around the world have sent buttons, well wishes and donations for the students’ planned memorial sculpture that will incorporate all the collected buttons. This year, Save the Children, has generously offered to act as a collection point for donations of buttons and money for the eventual memorial between the 25th and 29th January.
Sharing stories with Holocaust survivors has been a key part of the project. Kessem says their stories show sadness, depression and loss but also hope and something to look forward to.
The students were particularly touched by Vera Egermayer who was only five when imprisoned in the Terezin Concentration Camp.
“In a time like the Holocaust it’s like living in a pitch black room. But every time someone does something for you it’s like someone coming in the room and lighting a candle. You need to focus on the light of the candle,” Ms Egermayer told them.
In spite of what she went through, Ms Egermayer’s advice, to focus on the light and not the darkness greatly moved the children and her vision has come to shape the student’s subsequent remembrance projects. The planned memorial, a maze incorporating the buttons, is also focused on her advice.
“We still find it hard to understand : How can people murder innocent children? By remembering we can help stop this horrible thing from happening in our generation,” says Jonah Ease (12).
“We feel a special bond to the buttons we have collected . . as if we know the children and we are friends. We are so lucky to live in a time like today and in a safe place like New Zealand. We also feel total respect for the children of the Holocaust.”
Kessem and Jonah say the Moriah children get quite emotional just looking at the hundreds of thousands of buttons, all of them different, just like those children who were killed so many years ago.
Click here to view Television New Zealand’s news report on Holocaust Remembrance Day
Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony
Makara Cemetery, Makara
Donations of buttons and money for the memorial will be collected by Save the Children Fund from the 25th – 29th Januay 2010.
Kessem Goldberg (12) and Jonah Ease (12) from Moriah School are project leaders for the 1.5 million Buttons Project