THE shtiebl at the Melbourne Chevra Kadisha (MCK) Lyndhurst Cemetery was packed to capacity for the dedication of a rock symbolising the community’s mourning for the dead of the Holocaust.
The 60-tonne boulder, selected by Andrew Rogers who sculpted the Pillars of Witness memorial at the Jewish Holocaust Centre, represents the weight of six million pebbles, one for each murdered Jewish man, woman and child, reflected federal Treasurer and Deputy Liberal Leader Josh Frydenberg, who gave the keynote address.
Frydenberg recounted representing the Australian government on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 2015. “We gathered – more than 50 leaders from around the world, including the President of Germany – to take a walk in the snow, in the dark and in the cold of Auschwitz, along the rail track to light a candle in the memory of the dead.
Moving ceremony with Holocaust survivors like 90 year old Szaja who went through the horrors of Buchenwald as we remember the victims and commemorate a new memorial stone at Lyndhurst. @joshburnsmp pic.twitter.com/OuADqAAq4D
— Josh Frydenberg (@JoshFrydenberg) November 24, 2019
“When I visited Auschwitz for the first time and I walked through those gates … I was reminded of the horrors of our fellow Jews, how scared they must have been, the cattle cars, deprived of their dignity … many to be stripped naked and beaten to death, others to be worked to death, and those who survived, survived only temporarily, to then be moved to the gas chambers where the canisters dropped from the shower block and you can see on the walls the nail markings as people were scrambling to survive,” said Frydenberg, who lost great-grandparents and a great-aunt in the Shoah.
Frydenberg described the boulder as “an eternal symbol … that we all say ‘never again'”.
Survivor and Buchenwald Boy Szaja Chaskiel, born in Poland in 1929, and now a great-grandfather, spoke of losing his family to the Nazis and being sent to the Lodz Ghetto, Auschwitz and Buchenwald. “To me, this memorial is … to say Kaddish … for generations to come … Am Yisrael chai.”
Jewish Community Council of Victoria president Jennifer Huppert noted the Melbourne Jewish community was “profoundly changed by the Shoah”, first through the horrible news filtering in, then by the arriving survivors. The victims “do not have a gravestone but when we visit this cemetery … we can honour the six million by placing a stone by this memorial”.
Before reciting El Malei Rachamim, Rabbinical Council of Victoria president Rabbi Philip Heilbrunn intoned that “all the pebbles that our people might have yearned to place on the Shoah victims’ graves … are as one massive rock which we, their relatives, their fellow Jews, have united to place in their memory”.