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THE HON MICHAEL DANBY MP
SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION,
SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR THE ARTS
MEMBER FOR MELBOURNE PORTS

On 27 January the world commemorated the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz–Birkenau death camp in southern Poland by the Soviet armed forces. Seventy years ago is a long time in human memory and today there are only a few survivors who have memories of Auschwitz.

That this House:

(1)   notes that:

(a)    27 January 2015 marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the allies;

(b)   over a million Jews and 150,000 non-Jews were murdered in the Auschwitz death camp; and

(c)    27 January has since become International Holocaust Day, and is marked by ceremonies around the world acknowledging the horrific nature of the official policy of genocide against Jews that was manifested in the Holocaust and that claimed 6 million lives;

(2)   calls on all Australians to remember these crimes against humanity in order to ensure Australia’s continuing condemnation of any attempts to repeat such horrors; and

(3)   in light of Australia having one of the largest groups of Holocaust survivors and the bipartisan support for the previous government’s legacy to the maintenance of the memorial of the camp, calls on Australia to keep a representative on the international committee that supervises the maintenance of the memorial at Auschwitz.

On 27 January the world commemorated the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz–Birkenau death camp in southern Poland by the Soviet armed forces. Seventy years ago is a long time in human memory and today there are only a few survivors who have memories of Auschwitz. Soon there will be none. That is why it is important to remember what happened there. Auschwitz was a place where the German Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler killed more than one million people in cold blood as part of a calculated campaign of extermination. On 30 January 1939 Hitler mockingly, in response to an appeal from President Roosevelt, told the guffawing Nazi deputies gathered at the Berlin Sportspalast that the outcome of a new world war ‘will not be the victory of Jewry but the total annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe’—the ‘vernichtung der judischen rasse in Europa’, as he said in German. We now know that he meant what he said.

The overwhelming majority of those killed in Auschwitz were Jews, transported in cattle cars—as very movingly portrayed in Mr Lowy’s recent tribute to his parents by establishing one of the original cattle cars at the site; a site where all of the people were exterminated in gas chambers or were worked to death in nearby camps such as Monowitz. Many years ago I had the honour of launching a book by Mr Grossman, who talked of his experiences in Monowitz. Never will I forget his emphatic wish that the US B29s that were flying overhead had bombed the crematoriums and the gas chambers.

The dead of Auschwitz included 150,000 non-Jewish Poles, 23,000 gypsies, at least 15,000 Soviet prisoners and 10,000 of other nationalities. Finally, in late 1944, even when the war was clearly lost, the Nazis transported 400,000 Hungarian Jews to be murdered. By the end of 1944—the last people were killed in October, by the way—the SS had killed most of the European Jews that they could get hold of in Europe. SS leader Himmler, aware that Germany was losing and fearing for his own neck, ordered all the killing stopped and that the camps be destroyed and covered up as best they could be. The Red Army approached and the SS evacuated the camp on 17–18 January 1945. Tens of thousands of prisoners were marched towards the freezing landscape of other camps further into Germany, such as Gross–Rosen, Mauthausen, Bergen–Belsen and Buchenwald, where Alfred Hitchcock and the British film crew later filmed those incredible scenes that we are all so familiar with. It is very interesting to recount the fact that a great director like Alfred Hitchcock thought it was his ethical responsibility to film those scenes. Thousands of people died in those purposefully futile marches.

On 27 January the 60th Army of the First Ukrainian Front under Marshal Koniev reached the town of Auschwitz. Only about 7000 prisoners remained alive in Auschwitz and Birkenau, whose barracks had once housed 200,000. To commemorate those things there are superb institutions such as Yad Vashem in Israel, the Holocaust museum in my electorate and of course the Auschwitz Foundation.

The Auschwitz Foundation was established in 2009 to raise funds required to ensure that the site of the extermination is preserved for future generations as a paradigm of the remembrance of racism and what happened during the Nazi occupied regime there. In 2012, Prime Minister Gillard gave the Auschwitz Foundation, on behalf of the Australian Government, significant support—$500,000. This is important for Australia to do; after all, Australia is where the largest number of Holocaust survivors per capita have gone, apart from Israel. It is the right thing to do because Australia has an ethical interest in international affairs.

It is sad that at the recent anniversary memorial in Poland only the Australian Government was represented. I think it would have been much better if it had been bipartisan. Australia is represented very capably on the international memorial foundation that supervises the camp now by Ambassador Jean Dunn. In the future, I would see it that the Australian Government would elevate our representation on that, along with Germany, the United States, France and Poland, so that we preserve the memory of that dreadful place. Auschwitz–Birkenau should remain as a paradigm of evil. It is a lesson to people right across the world of just what the outcome is of murderous threats against any race or individuals taken to their ultimate conclusion. We see now a revival of this brutish sentiment across the world. Let it never happen again. Our watchword must be: ‘Never again’. (Time expired).