Federal Government’s Shoah pledge

Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Robert Goot. Photo: AJN file

Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Robert Goot. Photo: AJN file

NAOMI LEVIN

THE Australian Government has pledged to promote Holocaust remembrance and look after survivors. Australia was represented at the Holocaust Era Assets Conference in Prague by its ambassador to the Czech Republic, Ruth Pearce. Joining her in Australia’s official delegation was Robert Goot, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

Holocaust restitution, education and remembrance were all discussed during the four-day event and Australia joined 45 other countries in signing the Terezin Declaration.

“It is most significant that Australia was represented at the conference and that it signed the Terezin Declaration,” Goot said on his return this week.

The declaration, which is not legally binding, encourages signatories to adhere to a set of regulations surrounding the welfare of Holocaust survivors, restitution, education and remembrance.

While restitution issues are less relevant in Australia, the welfare of Holocaust survivors and Holocaust remembrance are fundamental. Australia has the largest population of Holocaust survivors outside of Israel and most of them are elderly.

The Terezin Declaration encourages Australia in efforts to provide adequate social welfare for survivors noting they “have today reached an advanced age and that they have special medical and health needs”.

It also encourages Australia to “support or establish regular, annual ceremonies of remembrance and commemoration” and to include education about the Holocaust “as a matter of priority”.

“The Australian Government is committed to remembrance of the Holocaust to ensure that those events can never be repeated,” a spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said.

Goot, meanwhile, said he hopes Australia signing the Terezin Declaration will lead to more efforts on Holocaust remembrance and education.

“It is hoped that the events in Prague will, in time, provide an impetus for Australia to [join] the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research and for the Shoah to be part of the mandatory history curriculum in all Australian schools,” he said.

The taskforce was established in 1998 and commits signatories to provide compulsory Holocaust education. There are currently 27 member states. Australia is not one of them.