Melbourne commemorates Yom Hashoah

Shoah survivors together with their families on stage. Photo: Peter Haskin

THE Jewish Community Council of Victoria’s (JCCV)  annual Yom Hashoah Commemoration for 2017 was held on Sunday night with an estimated 1000 people in attendance. 

The event at Monash University’s Robert Blackwood Hall recalled the 75th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference – the high-ranking Nazi meeting to discuss and coordinate the implementation of what they called the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question”.

Addressing the crowd, Holocaust survivor Gilah Leder recounted her story of survival, growing up in the Netherlands with a Catholic family who lovingly took her into their home. She was just one year old when war broke out.

The Dutch-born Professor spoke of the incredibly high percentage of Dutch Jewry killed during the Shoah. 

Of the 140,000 strong Jewish community that existed before the war broke out there in May 1940, only 35,000 remained after the Holocaust.

Following Leder’s address, six survivors came on stage with their families, each lighting a yahrzeit candle.

“We kindle these candles in sacred memory of the souls of the innocent victims of the Shoah,” it was announced.

“Six million victims – men, women, and one and a half million children.”

“Today, on Yom Hashoah Ve-Hagevurah, it is incumbent on us to do the impossible: to kindle six million memorial candles to summon the souls of our dead.”

The ceremony included discussion of current day anti-Semitism and the need to continuously educate people about what happened in the past to ensure it never occurs again.

Despite the sombre mood of the night, echoed in eerily beautiful musical performances in Hebrew, Yiddish and English, there was also a sense of pride as those in attendance reflected on the Jewish people’s survival.

“Seventy-five years after the enactment of the Final Solution, set in place by the Nazi regime which Hitler boasted would endure for 1000 years but which lasted only 12, we sing together, with pride and confidence, the Partisans’ Song – Zog Nit Kein Mol and Hatikvah, to mark the continuity of our four-thousand-year-old culture, history and tradition,” it was announced.

The evening also included an address by vice-president of the JCCV Anton Hermann who spoke to the audience of the importance of marking the solemn occasion.

“Tonight we gather to remember, we gather to bear witness and we gather to make good our pledge: never again.”

“No words are ever sufficient to convey the magnitude of the Shoah,” he said.

“We seek to honour the memory of those who perished. Tonight, we will honour the memory of those who were murdered for the sole reason that they were Jewish. All innocent, all were murdered by the most barbaric means and tonight we remember them.”