REPRESENTATIVES of three Christian communities in Melbourne came together on Monday night (March 19) to hold their annual memorial service commemorating the Holocaust.
About 150 people filled the Chapel of St Peter at Melbourne Grammar School in South Yarra for the service, run by the Ecumenical Interfaith Commission (EIC), representing the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, the Anglican Archdiocese of Melbourne, and the Uniting Church’s Synod of Victoria and Tasmania.
The service, run by secondary school students, was addressed by Holocaust survivor Sara Saroni, 92, who detailed her harrowing story as a young woman in Poland, having to leave her family and live under a false non-Jewish identity, working for a family in Germany.
Saroni was later forced to leave that house and took refuge on a farm. When she eventually returned to Poland, she discovered that her family had perished in the Holocaust.
Jamarl Firebrace, a year 12 Indigenous student at Melbourne Grammar, paid tribute to William Cooper of the Australian Aborigines League for his courageous act of protest at the German embassy in Melbourne after Kristallnacht in 1938.
Council of Christians and Jews Victoria chair Dr Philip Bliss recited Kaddish in Hebrew and English.
EIC executive officer David Schutz described the event, which has been held annually in Melbourne since 1993, as a service “for Christians and all people of goodwill: an opportunity to gather, to listen, to learn, to respond and to commit to justice for all … We are very privileged to welcome members of the Jewish community to join us for this service”.
Speaking to The AJN, Schutz paid tribute to Saroni and emphasised “the importance of a living voice [from the Holocaust] addressing us at these services”.
He said holding the annual service at schools involves the students in learning more about the Holocaust.
“We lament the Holocaust as Christians,” he reflected, “and we pray for those who died and commit ourselves to making sure such events will never be repeated.”