German-Jewish Holocaust survivor Bob Narev is fighting what he sees as a declining and often absent knowledge about the horrors of the Nazi regime.

Recycling a quote that Winston Churchill once adopted, he says "those who forget history are doomed to repeat it".

Today, he was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to the community and education. That is not his first honour: in 1999, he was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

The St Heliers-based former director, chairman and lawyer has used his experience as a Holocaust survivor to teach thousands of New Zealand students about the dangers of racism, prejudice and bigotry and the importance of respecting people of all races and religions.

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He and wife Freda have been educators for The Holocaust Centre of New Zealand since 2002, regularly speaking to secondary school pupils and adult groups.

He came to New Zealand in 1947 and is now 84.

He is the chairman of the Holocaust and Antisemitism Foundation, formerly called Shadows of Shoah Trust.

Since 2016, he has chaired the Auckland Holocaust Memorial Trust where he and his committee worked with Auckland Council to identify a site for the creation of a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust to be known as the Garden of Humanity.

Freda and Bob Narev are both Holocaust survivors. Photo / Duncan Brown
Freda and Bob Narev are both Holocaust survivors. Photo / Duncan Brown

"We're still in the course of negotiation because we're also having discussions with the various iwi who have an interest in matters that happen in the Auckland Domain where we are proposing it should be," he said.

Narev and the committee have worked on the garden's design concepts and liaised with iwi and heritage specialists. He said today fund-raising was planned, but only after the location was decided on.

He wants that garden to incorporate around 200 cobblestones, given by the Holocaust Museum in Washington to various museums including the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Those were passed on to the trust. Those cobblestones came from the Warsaw Ghetto where, in 1943, thousands of Jews were killed by Nazi soldiers.

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Just on 63 years after he joined law firm Glaister Ennor & Kiff, Narev is still a consultant with a practising certificate, specialising in corporate, property, trust and estate law and as a notary public.

"Over the years, I have appeared as a legal expert witness in court and tribunal cases," he said today.

Business runs in the family: one son Ian is the former chief executive of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, which owns ASB in New Zealand. Daughter Kim Jaffa is based in Melbourne, a computer specialist. Son Eric is based in Sydney where he is a partner in a legal firm specialising in mergers and acquisitions.

All eight grandchildren live in Australia.

Narev was the founding chairman of New Zealand's biggest listed landlord, Kiwi Property where he was also a director for two decades. He was also on the boards of two superannuation funds: SIL Mutual Fund and MFL Mutual Fund. He also served as the chairman of both those businesses.

For a decade, he was president of the Auckland Society of Notaries. He is an honorary member of the NZ Dental Association and the Orthodontists Association of NZ.

He has been a founding trustee for the charitable Senior Outreach Service Trust since 2003 and a trustee of the Gemach Fund associated with the Auckland Hebrew Congregation since 2016.

Narev is working on plans for a memorial garden in the Auckland Domain. Photo / John Stone
Narev is working on plans for a memorial garden in the Auckland Domain. Photo / John Stone

He was chairman of the United Synagogues of New Zealand and chairs the Hugh Green Foundation, where he has overseen substantial donations to the Centre for Brain Research at Auckland University, City Mission, the Springboard Trust, Great Potentials Foundation and the Malaghan Institute for medical research.

He was a trustee of the Christian Healthcare Trust Board for 17 years.

"I have always wanted to give back to New Zealand something in return for the reception and treatment which my wife Freda and I have so much appreciated," he said today.

"Freda is also a Holocaust survivor and holder of a Queen's Service Medal. We have attempted over the years to devote some of our time and energy for the benefit of others in our adopted country by way of acknowledgement of the good life which we have enjoyed here.

"Apart from that, my goal in life has been to be a good citizen as well as a caring husband, father and grandfather," he said.