A new museum will bring the horrors of the Holocaust home later this year when construction starts on the Canberra Holocaust Museum and Education Centre on a site not far from our other national institutions.
The museum will be built at the current site of the National Jewish Memorial Centre (NJMC) in Forrest and will provide basic information about Jewish life in Europe before its barbaric destruction during World War II.
ACT Jewish Community Treasurer and Facilities Committee Chair Dr David Rosalky said the centre will make a valuable contribution to the education of visitors, especially the groups of school children who regularly visit the current memorial centre.
“The nature of the Holocaust will be illustrated, leading to an understanding of how democratic and law-based society, highlighted through the institutions of government in our nation’s capital, can prevent such tragedies.”
The announcement coincided with International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27 January and came in the wake of a new report that revealed almost one in four Australians over 18 has “little to no knowledge” of the Holocaust. For millennials, it’s one in three.
The Holocaust (also known as the ‘Shoah’) was the genocide of European Jews during World War II. Between 1941 and 1945, Nazi Germany and its collaborators systematically murdered some six million Jews across German-occupied Europe, around two-thirds of the continent’s entire Jewish population.
The murders were carried out through violent riots, mass shootings, through labour in concentration camps, and in gas chambers and gas vans in German extermination camps.
During September last year, the Gandel Foundation – together with the Deakin University in Geelong – put a set of 70 questions to more than 3500 people across Australia.
The ‘Holocaust Awareness and Knowledge in Australia Survey’ is the largest poll of its type ever done, and reveals that almost one-quarter of Australian adults have little to no knowledge of the Holocaust. More than 70 per cent are not aware of Australia’s own connections to the Holocaust.
“We were hoping that we would be a little bit better, particularly among Millennials,” Gandel Foundation chairperson John Gandel said.
“A small number of people in Australia have ever visited a museum. We are hoping to use these findings to talk to state governments to better structure state education systems.”
The new centre will be funded through the Community Development Grants program in line with Australia’s commitment to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which Australia joined in 2019.
Acting Minister for Education and Youth Stuart Robert announced the additional funding, bringing the Commonwealth’s financial commitment to the project to around $2 million.
“Today we remember those who lost their lives and reflect on the devastating impact of the Holocaust on the international Jewish community,” Minister Robert said.
“We owe it to those who died or lost loved ones to ensure this dark period of history is never forgotten and never repeated, and educating future generations has a key role to play in achieving this.
“I am pleased this funding will help get the Canberra Holocaust Museum and Education Centre off the ground and on its way to becoming a valuable resource to educate Australia’s youth.”
Since 2019, the Federal Government has committed more than $12 million to a suite of school-focused initiatives, said to “tackle all forms of discrimination and build social cohesion within schools”, including digital Holocaust education resources.
“Australians should be proud of our free and democratic society, and greater knowledge of the Holocaust will help to ensure such a tragedy is never repeated,” Minister Robert said.
“It is particularly appropriate to build a Holocaust museum in the nation’s capital alongside Australia’s democratic institutions and I would like to thank the ACT Government for their assistance in this important effort.”