By Ben Kepes on Diversity Limited and The Post…

Last Saturday was the United Nations International Holocaust Remembrance Day (UNIHRD). As a board member of New Zealand’s Holocaust Centre, and the son of a survivor of the camps, I was asked to speak at the Christchurch event.

This year’s UNIHRD was always going to be a sensitive one – the ongoing conflict, destructive and tragic, that started with the October 7th terrorist attacks by Hamas, and continued with Israel’s retaliation, has created a schism in society. The rights and wrongs (and most people will know my view on that) are not relevant to UNIHRD, an event that ensures we keep the memory alive of the millions of Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals and special needs people who the Nazis killed.

Indeed, seeing the number of individuals who chose not to attend the events this year – from local body politicians to central government politicians, from academics to educators, was a sobering sign of how much current events have changed the landscape. This year’s theme made things even more interesting. With the dwindling number of survivors still alive, it falls upon second, third and fourth-generation survivors to keep the memories alive.

I chose to take a historical perspective and took a step backwards in time to AD 69. The Romans had conquered Israel and while small enclaves of Jews continued to exist in the region throughout time, the vast majority of people were exiled. In the case of my family, it was a slow move into Europe. The Jews generally, and my forbears specifically, flourished in Europe. Limited to certain trades and vocations, they became leaders in business, arts, politics and academia.

But there was an undercurrent. Every few years at Easter time the local religious leaders would whip their congregants up into a religious fervour with tales of the killing of Jesus and suggestions the Jews ground Christian children’s bones to make their bread. The congregants would run rampage through the ghettos, murdering and destroying with reckless abandon. But the Jews would regroup and go back to life as usual. They did so passively and meekly and every year at Passover, they would say two things. Firstly, they would remark upon the fact that in every generation, people rise up to destroy us. And secondly, they would articulate the plaintive dream that next year they might be in Jerusalem.

Read Ben Kepe’s full article on Diversity Limited here.