“NEVER again” – that was the message holocaust survivor Peter Baruch wanted to ensure lived on through the opening of the Queensland Holocaust Museum beneath Penola Place in St Stephen’s Cathedral precinct today.
Mr Baruch was only one and a half years old when Nazi Germany invaded his home-country Poland in 1939.
His parents decided to leave Poland while the rest of his wider family stayed. “We survived; they all perished, every one of them,” he said.
His family fled to Lithuania, where they met Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara – now remembered for his heroics helping Jewish people flee Nazi-occupied Europe.
Mr Baruch’s family travelled on the Trans-Siberian Railway through Russia to Vladivostok and shipped to Japan.
After six months, the family were forced to leave Japan as well.
Mr Baruch’s father acquired visas to “a place we’d never heard of called New Zealand”.
“The journey took two years,” he said.
“Two years of deprivation, two years of worry for my parents.”
Mr Baruch has five children and seven grandchildren, saying he found a “very good life here”.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge said it was an honour to join with the Jewish community in an inter-religious partnership that promotes remembrance and understanding.
“The partnership sends a strong signal that we are all sisters and brothers in a world which desperately needs to build bridges not walls, to choose peace not violence,” he said.
“It is good that many have come together in this project – religious bodies, government and the wider community – to tell a story that can never be forgotten, a story that belongs to us all.”
The museum, a Queensland first, was opened by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Multicultural Affairs Minister Leanne Linard, Chair of the Queensland Holocaust Museum and Education Centre Jason Steinberg and Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner.
“Today marks a significant milestone in Queensland’s cultural history as we honour the legacy of Queensland’s many holocaust survivors and their descendants,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“The Queensland Holocaust Museum and Education Centre honours the legacy of those who faced awful atrocities, as well those who risked their own lives to save those facing persecution.
“This will ensure future generations never forget – because Queensland’s survivor stories will now be heard for generations to come.”
Locally-recorded stories of Holocaust survivors and their families living in Queensland feature prominently alongside tributes to non-Jewish people who risked their lives to save Jewish people, including those awarded the prestigious “Righteous Among Nations” honour.
An online museum will shortly be available, and a unique mobile facility is being developed to travel throughout the state to ensure all Queenslanders have access to the valuable resources available through the centre.
Queensland Holocaust Museum and Education Centre Chair Jason Steinberg said we all have “a huge responsibility to keep the memory of the Holocaust that is never forgotten”.
“Our multi-faceted and engaging museum tells the story of the Holocaust in a way that it has never been told – through the voices, stories and artefacts from Queensland survivors,” he said.
“There were around 27,000 Holocaust survivors who migrated to Australia and Queensland became home to more than 200 survivors
“At our museum, visitors will hear first-hand filmed testimonies from Queensland survivors who tell their stories about life before, during and after the Holocaust.”
The museum and education centre was established thanks to $3.5 million in funding from the Palaszczuk Government, which will be matched by the Australian Government, and a Brisbane City Council pledge of $500,000.