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Buttons push message at Children’s Holocaust Memorial

The Children’s Holocaust Memorial will be officially launched at the National Library in Wellington today, honouring the 1.5 million children killed during the Holocaust, including children related to New Zealand’s own Holocaust survivors and refugees.

The Children’s Holocaust Memorial is the first of its kind in the world, and an initiative of the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand.

The Memorial uses a simple everyday button as an icon, taking the lead from the former principal of the Moriah Jewish Day School in Wellington, who used buttons to communicate to her students the enormity of the number of children killed.

Over one million buttons have been collected from around New Zealand and the world to symbolise the 1.5 million innocent lives lost, with most of the buttons contained in a unique installation by Matthijs Siljee of Massey University’s School of Design.

Other key elements of the Memorial include an interactive educational section – especially relevant for schoolchildren – and a reflective reading space with a selection of books from the National Library’s substantial Holocaust collection.

The Memorial opens to the public tomorrow at the National Library. It is on show until 29 March 2019, from 9.00am to 5.00pm, Monday through Saturday (apart from Saturdays from 1 December to 23 February, when the Library runs summer hours from 9.00am to 1.00pm).

After Wellington, it will travel to the new Public Library in Christchurch, then to Auckland.

“The Children’s Holocaust Memorial represents the culmination of many years’ work, especially the passion and dedication of a number of our Holocaust survivors,” says Jeremy Smith, Chair of the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand.

“The enduring lesson of the Holocaust for New Zealanders is a preparedness to stand up to discrimination and prejudice and the violation of human rights – in essence, to be an upstander not bystander,” he says.

National Librarian Bill Macnaught said that the Library is “honoured” to host the Memorial.

“This powerful and moving memorial reinforces the importance of reading to build a better understanding of our history,” he says.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the following programme of public events including social justice-themed panel discussions and presentations will be held at the National Library of New Zealand during the Memorial’s residency.

Children’s Holocaust Memorial – Social Justice Speakers Programme

Forum 1 (5 December) The Refugee Experience in New Zealand: Two Unique Perspectives
Moderator: Tracey Barnett, journalist & former executive member of the Refugee Council of New Zealand
Speakers: Ibrahim Omer, chair of the Changemakers Refugee Forum; Inge Wolf, co-founder of the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand

Forum 2 (20 February 2019) Challenging Discrimination and Prejudice in Aotearoa: What It Means to Stand Up
Moderator: Dianne Davis, deputy chair of the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand
Panellists: Peter Fa’afiu, chair of Amnesty International New Zealand; Louisa Wall, Member of Parliament for Manurewa; Deborah Hart, panel member of the Human Rights Review Tribunal

Forum 3 (13 March, 2019) Disability Rights: Historic & Contemporary Views
Moderator: Dr Hilary Stace, Health Services Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington
Panellists: Paula Tesoriero, Disability Rights Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission; Grace Stratton, Disability Youth Advocate; Chris Harris, National Director of Education at the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand