On Thursday evening the Children's Holocaust Memorial Te Whakamaharatanga o te Parekura Tamariki opened in the foyer at MTG Hawke's Bay.
This unique, poignant and very moving memorial was produced by the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand.
The word holocaust comes from ancient Greek and means burnt offering. Prior to 1939 the word was sometimes used to describe the death of a large group of people, but since 1945 the word has become almost synonymous with the murder of European Jews during World War II.
The Holocaust Encyclopedia states: "The holocaust was not an accident in history: it occurred because individuals, organisations and governments made choices that not only legalised discriminations, but also allowed prejudice, hatred – and ultimately – mass murder to occur. It was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jewish men, women and children by the Nazi regime and its collaborators."
The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were "racially superior" and wanted to create a "racially pure state".
Jews, deemed "inferior", were considered an alien threat, the so-called deadliest menace to the German racial community. Soon after they came to power in 1933, the Nazis adopted measures to exclude Jews from German social and cultural life and to pressure them to emigrate.
World War II provided Nazi officials with the opportunity to pursue a comprehensive "final solution to the Jewish question": the murder of all Jews in Europe. By 1945, the Germans, their allies and collaborators had killed nearly two out of every three European Jews.
During the era of the Holocaust, German authorities also targeted and killed other groups because of their perceived racial and biological inferiority: Roma (Gypsies), Germans with disabilities, and some of the Slavic peoples (especially Poles and Russians). Individuals were also persecuted on political, ideological and behavioural grounds, amongst them Communists, Socialists, Jehovah's Witnesses and homosexuals.
The Holocaust Centre of New Zealand's mission statement is: "… that through testimony and experience, the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand will inspire and empower individuals to stand up against prejudice, discrimination and apathy by remembering and educating and bearing witness to the Holocaust".
The Children's Holocaust Memorial conveys this mantra by honouring the 1.5 million children killed during the Holocaust thereby giving a voice to those who cannot speak.
The memorial project originated from Moriah College, formerly located within the Wellington Jewish Community Centre. In 2008, principal Justine Hitchcock along with her 20 primary school pupils, initiated the collection of buttons "in an attempt to comprehend and illustrate the sheer vastness of the number of children killed during the Holocaust".
Over a two-year period, the buttons were collected, cleaned and counted. In total the children collected 1.5 million buttons from all over the world, many of which came with personal stories and photographs. Each button represents a Jewish child that perished between 1939 and 1945.
The memorial also remembers the unaccounted thousands of Romani (Gypsy) children, children with physical and mental disabilities, Polish children and children residing in occupied Soviet Union.
The symbolism of the buttons epitomises these core ideals:
• each button is unique, just as each child is unique;
• each button is circular, as is the cycle of life;
• buttons hold clothes together, and a child is an integral part of a family;
• buttons adorned the clothing left behind by the children as they entered concentration camps.
The memorial consists of 12 cascading metallic nesting tables of various sizes containing the buttons: the first and smallest table is lined with mirrors where the viewer can observe themselves; the next is a single button representing one child; following on a small group of buttons representing a family unit.
Each table increases in size and in volume of buttons forming an emotional and poignant display of the magnitude of lives taken during the Holocaust. Included in the memorial are personal stories of children – almost all have a connection to New Zealand Aotearoa.
These children were sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, friends – all had a future – a future irrevocably, cruelly and terrifyingly stolen from them. What is so special about the Children's Holocaust Memorial is that it is made by young people to honour children who perished in the Holocaust. One of the key aims is to teach the modern aspect of being an upstander rather than a bystander.
Wellington-based Holocaust child survivor, Vera Egermayer recorded: "In a time like the Holocaust it is like living in a pitch-black room, but every time someone does something nice for you, it's like them coming in the room and lighting a candle. You need to focus on the light."
• Gail Pope is curator, Social History for the museum.
Show Me Shorts Film Festival: Whānau Friendly, a collection of short films suitable for the whole family (target to 7-12 year olds). MTG Century Theatre, TODAY - Saturday October 10, 2pm. Tickets available through eventfinda or at MTG.
Show Me Shorts Film Festival: The Sampler, the best and most vibrant short films. MTG Century Theatre, TODAY - Saturday October 10, 6pm. Tickets available through eventfinda or at MTG.
Hawke's Bay Arts Festival: Project Prima Volta, Soundbites, a short and sweet series of recitals from the talented voices of Project Prima Volta, a half-hour of lunchtime entertainment. MTG Century Theatre, October 13-16, 12.15pm. Free entry.
Hawke's Bay Arts Festival: Scena Edit, a full-length film featuring current and former Project Prima Volta students. MTG Century Theatre, October 17, noon. Free entry.
Hawke's Bay Arts Festival: Before Karma Gets Us, a fast-paced calamity of dark magic and arcane mysteries await. MTG Century Theatre, Saturday October 17, 4pm. Tickets available through Ticketek or at MTG.
Hawke's Bay Arts Festival: Nuit Blanche: Art After Dark, for one night only Napier's arts quarter, including MTG, comes to live. MTG, Saturday October 17, doors open 6pm.
Hawke's Bay Arts Festival: Nuit Blanche: Art After Dark, MTG is proud to be behind the Waiapu Cathedral 3D animated projection by artist Rangituhia Hollis and Manurewa High School animators, with sound artist Daniel Campbell-MacDonald and support from Indelible Creative Studios. Waiapau Cathedral, Saturday October 17, 6pm.
Hawke's Bay Arts Festival: Pecha Kucha, the fun, fast-paced speaking format that's brought communities together the world over and highlighted local treasures and surprises since it began in 2003. MTG Century Theatre, Tuesday October 20, 6pm. Door sales only.