Strong protest against aspects of Naomi Levin's article in The Australian Jewish News, April 25, 2008 (Sydney ed.) Canberra 30th April 2008
The Hon. John Hargreaves MLA
Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services
Member for Brindabella
ACT Legislative Assembly
Civic Square, London Circuit, ACT 2601
Re: Strong protest against aspects of Naomi Levin's article in The Australian Jewish News, April 25, 2008 (Sydney ed.)
The Australian Jewish News in its April edition has an article Marchers set to depart for Poland written by Naomi Levin. It concerns the XVII March of the Living Participants who will proceed from Auschwitz I to Auschwitz II Birkenau to remember the Shoah victims also known as Holocaust victims. The ceremony is a part of the international educational project in Auschwitz, which will be held in Poland and in Israel from 28 April to 11 May, 2008.
Ms Levin finishes her article with this sentence:
The participants complete a three-kilometre march between two Nazi-Polish concentration camps, Auschwitz and Birkenau.
The Council is not protesting against the event which it whole heartedly supports but against the most unfortunate wording "Nazi-Polish concentration camps".
To many Australians who don't know Poland's sad history or have a rudimentary knowledge of World War II, this wording can mean that the Poles initiated the concentration camps, were Nazis and systematically exterminated the Jewish people whereas this is quite incorrect. In fact we too were victims of the Nazi concentration camps with tens of thousands murdered in Auschwitz Birkenau alone.
The UNESCO world heritage list officially (June 2007) calls this camp Auschwitz Birkenau: German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940-1945) and built in Poland. (Source: http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/363)
The Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, Israel, calls them Nazi camps or concentration camps in German occupied areas. (Source: http://www1.yadvashem.org/Odot/prog/index_before_change_table.asp?gate=1-5)
The Australian media sometimes over many years uses this unfortunate phrase despite the lengthy protests by Polish Australians and its media as well as Polish representatives including the Polish Embassy and Consulate in Australia. That it should also come from a respectable Jewish newspaper whose readers were victims of the Shoah is disturbing and would be an affront to them as well as to all Polish Australians.
This protest is delivered in the strongest possible terms yet in the hope of educating all Australians about our multicultural diversity – working towards making it strong rather than weak.
I bring this matter to your attention because you kindly wrote a critical letter to the same publication when it referred to a World Cup soccer finals match between Germany and Poland as a contest between "the Nazis and anti-semites". On that occasion your letter was published. It is important when a person of your public stature defends such discrimination. Your action was greatly appreciated by the Australian-Polish community in the ACT.
For your information I am also attaching the letter sent to the "The Australian Jewish News" by Poland's Consul-General of Sydney.
Aleksander M. Gancarz
Council of Polish Organisation in the ACT Inc.