A TRAVELLING exhibition honouring the people who stood up for Jews during the Holocaust has come to Perth, focusing on the rescuers and survivors who migrated to Australia.
I Am My Brother’s Keeper was created by the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre “Yad Vashem,” based in Jerusalem.
It commemorates more than 26,000 people recognised as having put themselves at risk to save Jews, with this exhibition focussing on the 30 families who came to Australia.
Steve Lieblich from the Jewish Community Council of WA says “the Jewish community in WA includes many survivors of the Holocaust. And so, as a community, we’re acutely aware of the lessons of that dark period, because we’ve been personally affected, directly or indirectly.
“When we became aware that this exhibition was available to us, and that it honours the inspiring stories of heroes in that dark period, we determined to share it with all Western Australians and made arrangements to exhibit in the Perth Town Hall.”
Several of the rescuers and their descendants came to Perth.
Netherlands-born Mettina Venema-Kaspers was recognised by Yad Vashem in 1998. With her husband at sea during the war and two children to look after, she hid several Jews in her home in Diemen near Amsterdam.
As the war drew to a close the Germans raided the house and the Jews were spotted, but ironically the searcher was called away by a comrade before making an arrest. The Yad Vashem records say “the Germans never returned and the fugitives survived the war.”
The Geerling family are also recognised in the exhibition. Walter and Nancy Geerling hid, fostered, and eventually adopted a Jewish boy into their family. His name is Henk Piller and he now lives in Perth.
Mr Lieblich says “by sharing these inspiring examples, we aim to promote harmony amongst the diverse population of WA. We hope the exhibition will inspire us all to be vigilant for discrimination or bullying today and encourage us to speak up rather than remain silent.”
Nazi Germany didn’t progress to the Holocaust overnight: It was a build-up over years. Genocide research professor Gregory Stanton’s book The Eight Stages of Genocide traces the arc of atrocities through the earliest stages, the first step being when “people are divided into ‘them and us’.”
Mr Lieblich says “we need to recognise what it is when it seems innocuous.
“We need to be sensitised enough to speak up before it gets to that point … whether that’s done in private conversation, or comments on social media, or everyday interaction.”
I Am My Brother’s Keeper was opened by premier Mark McGowan on August 28, and runs until September 14 at the Perth Town Hall, open 10am to 3pm.
by DAVID BELL