History in the making: a Holocaust museum and education centre to be established in Queensland

The Queensland Jewish community has welcomed the announcement by the Australian Government to contribute $3.5m to help establish a permanent Holocaust Museum and Education Centre in Queensland.

The museum will honour the six million Jews and 5 million other minorities murdered in the Holocaust by delivering educational programs about the Holocaust and other genocides.

Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies Vice-President Jason Steinberg said the announcement was an historic day for Queensland.

“Incidents of anti-Semitism and racial vilification are growing in Queensland, with right-wing extremist groups targeting our communities with their hate-filled messages,” Mr Steinberg said.

“One antidote to this kind of hate is to educate people about the devastation caused by the world’s most evil, racially motivated campaign,” he said.

“We appreciate the commitment from Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Minister for Education Daniel Tehan, and Senator Amanda Stoker for their support for today’s announcement to establish the museum in Queensland.  

“At its core, the museum will help to empower individuals to stand up against hatred and prejudice, with the aim of preventing such violence and marginalisation from happening again. 

“As new research from the United States this month shows, knowledge of the Holocaust is shocking – 23 per cent of adults aged 18-39 surveyed said they believed the Holocaust was a myth, had been exaggerated or weren’t sure.

“The development of a museum in Queensland is invaluable to ensure our state’s adults, children and future generations understand what happened.

“This high-tech and modern centre will support and nurture a more tolerant Queensland – now and in the future.”

This announcement means that Queensland can now join the ranks of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, all of whom have permanent Holocaust museums and education centres.  

93 year-old Holocaust survivor and long-time advocate for Queensland’s Holocaust survivors, George Stein, said the museum announcement was wonderful news. 

“As the number of survivors decreases every year, a memorial to all the victims is very important,” Mr Stein said.

“For all Queenslanders and visitors to have the opportunity to hear and learn about the Shoah (Holocaust) is vital for future generations.

“We must never forget what happened in the Shoah.”

In July 1982, Mr Stein organised the State’s first Holocaust exhibition, held in Brisbane’s City Hall over a number of weeks. It was attended by more than 10,000 people and hundreds of school groups. Then-Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen was the exhibition’s patron.

It is expected the museum will gather objects and stories from survivors and their families, especially those from Queensland. Other world genocides will also be highlighted in educational programs. 

Yad Vashem, the world Holocaust remembrance centre in Israel, has offered to provide resources to support the new centre, as has other Jewish and Holocaust museums. 

Using the latest technology to create guided and online education experiences, the museum will be situated as close to Brisbane’s CBD as possible. 

It will also work with Queensland teachers, including the 30+ teachers who have participated in the Gandel Philanthropy’s Holocaust Studies Program for Australian Educators, to help provide quality resources that will provide better learning outcomes for students.

Nikki Marczak, genocide scholar and Atrocity Prevention Coordinator with the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect at the University of Queensland, commended the project, saying there was a strong imperative to build public awareness of the Holocaust and other genocides. 

“Education about past and current atrocity crimes can help reduce racial and religious hatred and enhance community cohesion. Indeed, remembrance and education are crucial aspects of genocide prevention,” Ms Marczak said.

As the roof body of the Jewish community, one of the aims of the Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies is to raise awareness of the Holocaust and preserve its memory. The organisation has partnered with a range of organisations for the past five years to increase education and progress the concept of a permanent museum.