New Zealand’s Governor-General acknowledged the “shameful” treatment by New Zealand of Jewish refugees fleeing Europe in the 1930s. Speaking in Auckland at a commemorative event for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy said that New Zealand did too little to help European Jews.
“The cards were stacked against them,” said Dame Patsy, who is also a Patron of the New Zealand Holocaust Centre. Pointing out that Government ministers, professional groups and trade unions “openly expressed reluctance to provide a haven for more Jewish refugees”, she said that that reluctance was “a stain on our history.”
As European Jews fled the continent between 1936 and 1938, the New Zealand Government rejected at least 70 percent of more than 1700 formal applications.
Dame Patsy said that the country “also actively discouraged” thousands more from applying. Only about 1200 Jewish refugees were eventually allowed into New Zealand. Dame Patsy said that those who did come were also often met with hostility and were thwarted in their efforts to bring family members to New Zealand.
“We should all acknowledge and learn from our own country’s shameful history with Jewish refugees,” she declared.
The theme of this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day was the contribution made by those refugees and their families and included comment from former Prime Minister John Key, whose mother was a Jewish refugee.
Dame Patsy’s comments come as antisemitism in New Zealand is increasing, prompting the country’s Race Relations Commissioner, Meng Foon, to to warn against the growing use of longstanding antisemitic tropes “using the language of the Third Reich.”