Page 438 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 15 February 2005

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contributing to their community. It is a thankless task. There is no money in it and it involves the expenditure of a lot of time. At the end of the day it is still a thankless task. We should acknowledge those in our community who work for some of the ethnic communities. I place on record the fact that I, and no doubt many Canberrans, appreciate the work that they do.


MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (5.53): We dealt today with government business, some serious matters and possibly some less serious matters. This morning we also dealt with some sober and sombre matters—the tragic loss of life on a large scale and on an individual scale. Assembly members should take note of the fact that three weeks ago the world came together to recognise that the Red Army liberated the Auschwitz extermination camp on 24 January 1945. On 25 January 2005, a few weeks ago, a ceremony was held in Berlin by the International Auschwitz Committee to pay respect to the millions of lives lost during that period of senseless murders.

Former camp prisoners and government leaders, as well as high-level representatives from 44 countries, were there to commemorate the victims of the worst genocide in the history of mankind. It is notable that German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder spoke at a ceremony in Berlin. He noted in his speech that it is the duty of all those committed to a democratic system to provide a strong response to neo-Nazi incitement and recurrent attempts by new-nazis to play down the importance of crimes that were committed by the Nazi regime. He said:

The temptation to forget is very great. But we will not succumb to that temptation.

Auschwitz has become a global symbol of terror, genocide and the Holocaust. In the first period of the existence of the camp primarily Poles were sent by the German occupation authorities. In 1942 that camp began to function another way—it became the centre of the mass destruction of the European Jews. The Nazis marked all Jews living in Europe for total extermination, regardless of their age, sex, occupation, citizenship or political views, and they died only because they were Jews. After the selections were conducted on the railroad platform newly arrived persons classified by the SS physicians as unfit for labour were sent to gas chambers—the ill, the elderly, pregnant women and children.

In most cases, 70 to 75 per cent of each transport was sent to immediate death. These people were not entered into the camp records—that is, they received no serial numbers and were not registered. That is why it is possible only to estimate the total number of victims of this tragic event. Prisoners capable of marching were evacuated into the depths of the Reich. On 27 January 1945 the Red Army soldiers liberated those who remained in the camp. On 2 July 1947 an act of the Polish parliament established the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum on the grounds of those two existing parts of the camp, Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau. I quote again from what German Chancellor Schröder said:

Evil is not a political scientific category. But, after Auschwitz, who could doubt that it manifested itself in the hate-driven genocide carried out by the Nazi regime.

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