A Cambridge High School student got a shock when the National Director of Education for the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand (HCNZ), Chris Harris, turned up at school to see him on Thursday.
Chris was there to tell the year 10 student, Seb Bartley, that he had just won the junior section in the organisation’s annual Paul Seideman Holocaust Essay Competition.
Seb had produced a video for the competition, but said he didn’t expect his entry to be successful.
“Especially considering I was really ill when I made the video,” Seb, who had a bad cold at the time, said. “So, I just had to cut it up and edit it, doing a sentence at time.”
Chris Harris presented Seb with a certificate on Thursday, but the big prize is yet to come.
In January, as part of the United Nations International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Seb and his mum will be flown to Wellington to attend a ceremony, likely to be held at Government House, though organisers could not yet confirm. There, in front of officials from HCNZ, holocaust survivors, their families, and Paul Seideman himself, Seb will share his video and be presented with a $200 cheque.
In explaining why Seb’s entry had been successful, Chris said it ticked all the boxes.
“We look for young people to be inspirational, and your message definitely covered that,” he told Seb. “It covered that message that we wanted about the relevance of the holocaust in today’s world.”
Seb said the experience had helped him appreciate the reality of the holocaust.
“I think you can learn that, as I said in my video, no matter how civilized, how well set up you think your country is, how well set up the laws are, some lunatic can still get into government and take over and kill off most of an entire race of people. I’m a little bit worried about America, to be honest.”
Chris said that Paul Seideman, a survivor of five different concentration camps, was eager to see the video but wanted to wait until the ceremony in January to see it.