The Holocaust Centre of New Zealand have launched an appeal on givealittle to raise funds for a memorial that will:

“give a voice to the children who perished in the Holocaust and ensure that such hatred may never be allowed to flourish.”

Between 1939 and 1945, as many as 1.5 million children were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. This number included over a million Jewish children and tens of thousands of Romani (Gypsy) children and children with physical and mental disabilities.

These children were sons, daughters, cousins, nephews and nieces; they had parents, grandparents and friends; they had bright futures ahead of them… but these futures were brutally stolen from them.

The story of the buttons and the 1.5 million children they represent will now be taught through this memorial. A design has been developed by Matthijs Siljee – Assistant Head and Lecturer from the Massey School of Design – that is able to travel through New Zealand. This design incorporates a selection of various sized ‘tables’ to signify carriages of a train.

The first and smallest tray displays a single light. The next is a single button, representative of one child. The next table holds four or five buttons to represent a family. Moving from here, the tables increase in size and in volume of buttons. With each increase in size and buttons, a larger selection of people is represented in an emotional and poignant display of the magnitude of lives taken during the Holocaust.

Moriah College, formerly located within the Wellington Jewish Community Centre, was the site from which this project started. Former Moriah College principal, Justine Hitchcock, along with her students initiated the project to practically illustrate the vastness of this number. It sought to collect a single button for each of the 1.5 million children that perished in the Holocaust.

The symbol of a ‘Button’ embodies such core ideas as:

– Each button is unique, as indeed a child is unique.

– Each button is circular, as is the circle of life

– Buttons, hold clothes together, as a child can meld a family together.

– Buttons adorned the clothing left behind by the children, as they entered the concentration camps.

The Moriah College pupils began to collect buttons and publicise the project for further support. Presentations were made, and stories were published in the media. The local Jewish community soon became involved to ensure the message could be spread beyond the school. Soon hereafter, parcels of buttons and letters inundated the school.

Along with these letters came personal stories of the donor’s own connection with the Holocaust. Correspondence was received from countries beyond New Zealand, including Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, the United States, France, and Poland. Prominent figures have donated buttons, including former Prime Ministers Helen Clark and Sir John Key, Holocaust humanitarian Sir Nicolas Winton, as well as New Zealand author Dame Joy Cowley – now the patron of the Children’s Holocaust Memorial.

In 2010, the children of Moriah College succeeded in collecting 1.5 million buttons, each representing a child that tragically and prematurely perished.

This memorial will not be possible without further support. By donating to this project, you will help the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand reach its goal and memorialize the lives that were cut short by the Holocaust.

This project would not be possible without strong community support. We hope that by joining us as a supporter of this project, the lives of those that perished may in a small way be vindicated, while also ensuring that such a tragedy may never happen again. It is your support that will ensure the reduction of prejudice and apathy in our society.

“We will never know anything about these children, but the Nazis did not succeed in erasing their memory entirely. They will be symbolically present in New Zealand’s Button Memorial to the Children of the Holocaust.” – Vera Egermayer, Holocaust Survivor

This project aims to raise a base target of $90,000. This would support the creation of the memorial itself, as well as running costs.

Thanks to a private donor, every dollar you donate will be matched.

[Visit the givealittle page here]