FOR Australia’s Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the federal government’s only Jewish MP, visiting Auschwitz on Tuesday had great personal significance.
There, Nazis murdered two of his great-grandparents, and cruelly imprisoned his great-aunt Mary Frydenberg, who eventually survived and moved to Australia.
“For the first time I saw the scale of Auschwitz – the crematoriums, the gas chambers, the buildings where you see [victims’] hair, shoes and glasses,” he told The AJN at the end of his long and emotional day.
“It was very hard to fathom the industrial scale of the operation at Auschwitz.”
Frydenberg’s commemorations started several hours before the ceremony, when he laid a wreath at the former camp with Australia’s ambassador to Poland Jean Dunn. During the ceremony he lit a candle, along with representatives from Canada and New Zealand.
He said that he found the ceremony very emotional as did the international figures around him.
“Sitting among the world leaders I saw they were clearly very moved by the survivors,” commented Frydenberg.
He stressed that he acted at the commemoration on behalf of all Australians – including Australian survivors who, due to the distance to Poland, did not go themselves. “I was representing all Australians and this was a very big privilege for me, especially as I lost relatives at Auschwitz,” he commented.
Frydenberg echoed the calls, heard from the likes of World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder, for world leaders to learn from the past and keep anti-Semitism in check. “Coming against the backdrop of rising anti-Semitism in Europe, I hope they get the message that this cannot be tolerated,” he said.
Josh Frydenberg at Auschwitz on Tuesday.