13 Sep 2021
"Absolutely appalling' - Christchurch partygoers slammed for 'ignorant' Hitler, Holocaust victim costumes"
A photograph of Christchurch partygoers dressed as concentration camp victims surrounding Adolf Hitler and making Nazi gestures has gone viral and been labelled "absolutely appalling".
A woman whose family members were murdered in the Holocaust said their choice of costume showed ignorance and a cruel lack of empathy and education.
And she said it was especially sad given those in the photo live in a city that had recently experienced a massacre driven by hate and racism.
The photo was posted to social media site Instagram over the weekend and supplied to the Herald this morning.
It shows a woman dressed as Adolf Hitler in a suit with his infamous Nazi arm band and moustache.
Five people wearing striped suits surround her with their arms raised in a pose historically used by Nazi supporters and white supremacists.
Holocaust Centre of New Zealand chair Deborah Hart said the photo was "absolutely appalling".
"I was absolutely appalled at the lack of empathy coupled with a seemingly complete ignorance of quite recent history," she told he Herald.
Hart's mother Inge Woolf was a child Holocaust survivor and after she had arrived in New Zealand as a refugee, co-founded the centre with a view to bear witness to the Holocaust, to remember, to educate and to act.
"They seem to be young people joking about genocide - what we're talking about is the extermination of six million Jews," Hart said. "The extermination of 1.5 million children… each one was a person, a person with a family.
"There are many people like myself who had family members murdered in the Holocaust and for those of us in that position to see young people like this just think it is a joke is really, really appalling."
The Herald has identified the woman dressed as Hitler and reached out to her this morning for comment.
That message has been received but she is yet to comment.
Another woman in the photo has also been contacted but has not responded.
The young man who posted the photo on his Instagram account is also being sought for comment.
It is understood they are all aged about 23.
At this stage the Herald has decided not to name the group.
Hart said a survey of people in New Zealand in 2019 showed that many did not have a clue about the facts of the Holocaust. She said third of people knew "little or nothing" and half "weren't aware of the basic facts". "The statistics for young people were even worse," Hart lamented. "I would say to anyone of these young people in that photo who chose to dress up as Holocaust victims and to the woman who dressed up as Hitler - reach out to us. "We're not about to out you, but come and visit us - we really need to talk about this and what you were joking about." Hart said anti semitism - hostility to, prejudice towards, or discrimination against Jewish people - was increasing around the world and sadly in New Zealand. She said it was crucial to fight those attitudes and apathy around the Holocaust.
Hart said after the 2019 terror attack in Christchurch where 51 Muslims were shot and killed and a further 40 wounded by a lone gunman as they gathered for Friday prayer, she was surprised people in the city would find the Holocaust funny.
"Obviously some work needs to be done in that community to make this kind of thing not okay," she said.
"For people to even think that it would appropriate to dress up as Holocaust camp victims just for the fun of it… Making fun of genocide is never alright and never a party joke and just inappropriate.
"It's sad that it's happened in New Zealand but especially in Christchurch - that city has had enough awful things happen and it's not something to be joking about."
Hart urged the people in the photo to "do better" and contact her directly if they wanted to know more about why their actions were so offensive and wrong.
"I wonder if in retrospect, they are feeling a little bit ashamed of what they did?" she suggested. "Certainly if I was a parent of one of them I would be saying to them that this could be a real stain on their reputation going forward. "They really need to think about what they are doing."
What was the Holocaust?
The Holocaust refers to the genocide of six million Jews carried out by Nazi Germany and its allies between 1933 and 1945. The term encompasses an escalation from disenfranchisement to discrimination, persecution and finally extermination.
This reached its deadliest point in the Nazis' "Final Solution" and the establishment of extermination camps, such as Chełmno, Bełżec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Majdanek, and Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The Holocaust was the deliberate attempt to exterminate the Jews, defined by anti-Semitic ideology, propaganda, legislation and the systematic implementation of unprecedented extermination techniques. The Holocaust did not happen in isolation, and many other people were also persecuted with dedicated measures. Some – such as the Roma people and the disabled – were targeted for extermination alongside the Jews, while many others were also oppressed by the Nazis on the basis of their ethnicity, political ideas, religious beliefs or sexual orientation.
(Source: Holocaust Centre of New Zealand)