Anti-Semitism is a chronic disease that can be felt in New Zealand, the Israeli ambassador says.
Ran Yaakoby, the Ambassador of Israel to New Zealand, was speaking at the opening of the Children's Holocaust Memorial at Te Manawa Museum in Palmerston North last week.
"The only vaccine is education," Yaakoby said.
Between 1939 and 1945, 1.5 million children were murdered by the Nazis. Among them were more than a million Jewish children, tens of thousands of Romani children and children with disabilities.
The New Zealand Children's Holocaust Memorial is a collection of 1.5 million buttons, gathered from all over the world. Each one represents a child who perished.
Yaakoby said trying to comprehend the murder of 1.5 million children is nearly impossible but the buttons help to visualise the loss.
The murders were one of the most egregious Nazi crimes but also one of the least documented, he said.
Those children never got to have a voice, however, through initiatives like the memorial the lives they never got to live are honoured.
"Together we will continue to fight anti-Semitism and racism, we will fight Holocaust denial and distortion," Yaakoby said.
The exhibition was designed by Matthijs Siljee, a senior lecturer at Massey University's Wellington School of Design.
Siljee was born in the Netherlands in the mid-1960s and said from time to time his parents spoke quietly about their memories of the Holocaust, such as empty school benches and never seeing their classmates again.
New Zealanders are well rehearsed in remembering war-time combatants but this is about children, the most innocent victims, Siljee said.
The exhibition, which was launched in Wellington in 2018, is about educating and warning people about contemporary hatred, he said. It is a reminder to be alert and foster humanity towards all people.
Chris Harris, the chief executive of the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand, said more than 150,000 people nationwide have seen the memorial.
Those who come will experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see something unique, powerful and at times upsetting but that will create lasting memories.
"Together we can be upstanders and not bystanders," Harris said.
- The free exhibition runs until June 27.