International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today, 27 January, is the international memorial day for the victims of the Holocaust. It is also the date, in 1945, when the largest Nazi death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenhau was liberated.

In Wellington, the annual commemoration is today at 2pm at the Holocaust Memorial, Makara Cemetery, Karori. The theme this year is:
Passing on Holocaust remembrance from one generation to the next

Many stories have been told and written about the horrors of the Holocaust. Stories about the victims, survivors, and also stories about people who risked their lives to help those in need.  There are also still many unknown stories, it is important that these stories are told and passed on to the next generation. One of those stories was about Jane Haining. Last month I was invited to a book launch at the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand in Webb Street. The author Lynley Smith introduced her book From Matron to Martyr.

Syndetics book coverFrom matron to martyr.
“Lynley shared the moving story of her relative, Jane Haining, a Scottish missionary sent to Budapest, Hungary before the war, to be the matron of a girls’ orphanage. She refused to abandon her Jewish charges and ended up in Auschwitz, where she died.
After finding a tenuous family connection to the mysterious and captivating Jane Haining, Lynley Smith crafted Jane’s fictionalized diary, a biography of a faithful servant and Scottish missionary who died at the hands of Nazis in Auschwitz Concentration Camp during World War II. From Matron to Martyr is an inspirational and bittersweet book. ” (courtesy of the author)

Have  you visited the Holocaust Centre in Webb Street? The Holocaust Centre of New Zealand aims to collect and record the stories of Holocaust survivors who fled from Hitler’s Europe, came to New Zealand and made new lives here. Their stories are available for education and research purposes.

The project is supported by volunteers committed to telling the stories of those who suffered and those who were cruelly murdered, in ways that will inspire following generations, both Jewish and of other faiths, to combat intolerance wherever it occurs and respect the dignity of the lives of every man, woman and child.

New learning English books!

Our Learning English collection has something for everyone! Books to help you with grammar, reading comprehension, writing, speaking and listening, dictionaries, fiction and non-fiction. We also host a group of students every Wednesday morning at Newtown library. They choose their books carefully and then have the opportunity to read aloud with some of our librarians.

I have noticed that a lot of the students prefer reading stories about well known people such as Pele, Mother Theresa and Michael Jackson.

Syndetics book coverNelson Mandela / Rowena Akinyemi.
One of the most popular books is about a very special person who was born in 1918. This child was given the name Rolihlahla, which means ‘troublemaker’ in the Xhosa language. At the age of seven, Rolihlahla went to school, the only one of his brothers and sisters to do so. And it was on his first day at school that his teacher, Miss Mdingane, gave him the English name of Nelson, the name which later became world famous! If you want to know more about his life, his tireless struggle for human rights, the happiness and sadness of family life this is an excellent read. For advanced readers of English, this book comes with an audio CD. It also has a glossary and before and after reading activities to help you understand the story.

Students often use dictionaries to help them with their studies. Did you know we have dictionaries in many community languages? They can be issued for 3 weeks. Here are some examples from our extensive collection!

Syndetics book coverBurmese-English English-Burmese dictionary / by Nance Cunningham, Aung Soe Min.
A practical dictionary for English speakers, including pronunciation and writing guide, chart of Burmese letters, and sections in Burmese script and and Burmese sound.

Syndetics book coverEnglish-Somali, Somali-English dictionary = Ingirisi Soomaali, Soomaali Ingirisi qaamuus / Maxamud Jaamac Qoorsheel.

Syndetics book coverOxford essential Arabic dictionary : English-Arabic, Arabic-English.
“This essential resource offers up-to-date coverage of the day-to-day vocabulary of English and Arabic, with more than 16,000 words, phrases, and translations.” (Syndetics summary

World Refugee Day – 20 June

Every year on June 20 the world honours the courage, resilience and strength of refugees. Global attention is focused on this day not only on the plight of refugees and causes of their exile, but also on their determination and contribution they make to their host communities.

What is happening in Wellington?

NZ Red Cross is once again holding the annual World Refugee Day Football Match and Cultural Fair at Newtown Park on Sunday, 23 June. The day will start at 11:00 AM and will include:

  • Football matches
  • Cultural performances
  • Ethnic food
  • And much more!

Imagine losing everything simply because of your race, ethnicity or beliefs. If you would like to know how you can help a family who has lost everything to start again, visit Refugee Services‘ website to find out more.

The following books have been written by refugee youth living in the Wellington region, and include short stories and poems. Journey with my Shadow is a collection of poetry by Samson Sahele, who is also the driving force behind the youth writing workshops.

Syndetics book coverEarthless trees : short stories by young refugees in New Zealand / [edited by Pauline Frances].
“This collection of short stories is dedicated to the courage of all refugees who live in New Zealand, for their suffering and displacement from their homeland. Created during a series of writing workshops for young refugees, these vibrant stories provide an insight into the lives of new New Zealanders – individuals and families who came to New Zealand seeking security and freedom. From an escape through mountains on an overloaded truck, to living through an explosion in urban Kabul, these stories touch on universal themes of survival, family and home.” (adapted from the Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBeyond the dark journey : short stories and poems by young refugees in New Zealand / [edited by Pauline Frances].
“Beyond the dark journey is the eagerly anticipated follow up to Earthless Trees which was published in late 2008 and had record sales for a publication of its kind. Over 1,500 copies sold. Dame Fiona Kidman had this to say within the Preface she wrote for Earthless Trees: ‘Above all, these are well written, accessible stories set in a modern contemporary world’.” (Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverWalking with a fragile heart
(This is a new book, still on order, but click the link above to place a reserve)
“Refugee Trauma Recovery recently celebrated the completion of a third book written by young people from refugee backgrounds with a book launch. Walking with a Fragile Heart is a collection of short stories and poems written by seven young people from Malawi, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Burma and Ethiopia. The completion of the book followed a 20 week writing course that gave the young writers an opportunity to write about their life experiences as refugees” (Human Rights Commission website)

You can also listen to an interview on National Radio with two of the young people whose work is in this collection.

Syndetics book coverJourney with my shadow : a collection of poetry / Samson Sahele.
“Journey with my shadow is a collecton of poetry that exposes the reality of Africa: the human rights violations, the killings and abuses, and the harassment by dictators” (Library catalogue summary)

Our Radio Show: from Music AdLib to News AdLib

Same frequency, 783AM, great music, but small change in content and presenters. A big thank you to Mark, Monty and Neil for their enthusiasm promoting our wonderful CD collection over the past few years!  Saturday 16  March was the first of our 4 weekly new look show, although you can still listen to the podcasts on Access Radio.

On our new show (hosted by myself, Ada Nally), we play fantastic local and world music but also let you know what is new at the libraries and share services benefitting our migrant communities! This week our bilingual librarian Jinyun talks about part of our collection which may  of interest to our Chinese speaking community.

We are are also promoting a special celebration of Poetic Voices of Africa in honour of 50 Years of the African Union. Poets Samson Sahele, L. E. Scott, Tony Hopkins, Wanjiku Kiarie, Makuei Aken and Inshirah Mahal will perform at

Newtown Library Tuesday 21 May 5-7 pm


Central Library Wednesday 22 May 5-7 pm

Both events are free!

Syndetics book coverJourney with my shadow : a collection of poetry / Samson Sahele.
“Journey with my shadow” is a collecton of poetry that exposes the reality of Africa: the human rights violations, the killings and abuses, and the harassment by dictators.

Syndetics book coverPoems for Gwen / L.E. Scott.

Syndetics book coverBeyond the dark journey : short stories and poems by young refugees in New Zealand / [edited by Pauline Frances].

“My dream for Aotearoa New Zealand is…

click for larger version of the Race Relations Day poster
the theme for Race Relations Day 2013. Held each year on 21 March, the day marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Wellington City Libraries is a participant in The New Zealand Diversity Action Programme, which is a community initiative. It began in 2004, in response to the outrage at the desecration of Jewish community gravesites in Wellington. The Programme has been active in promoting and encouraging positive race relations.

The New Zealand Diversity Action Programme brings together organisations taking practical initiatives to:

  1. recognise and celebrate the cultural diversity of our society
  2. promote the equal enjoyment by everyone of their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, regardless of race, colour, ethnicity, religion or national origin
  3. foster harmonious relations between diverse peoples
  4. fulfil the promise of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The Programme is facilitated by the Human Rights Commission on behalf of participants.

Do you have a vision what our country should be like for future generations? Share your thoughts on our Community Stories and Traditions page!

At Newtown Library we are asking adults and children what their dreams are. All their thoughts are displayed on the tree in the tent and will be forwarded to the Human Rights Commission. Here are some of their thoughts:
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The students of Moriah School in Webb Street have collected 1.5 million buttons in all colours, shapes and sizes. That is one button for every child who died in the Holocaust during World War II.

At the same time they started designing memorials. The designs were presented to the Jewish community and “Bewilderment” was chosen. All the buttons will be used in the walls of a maze. In the centre of the maze, there will be a single light shaped like a candle and a plaque quoting Holocaust survivor Vera Egermayer:

In a time like the Holocaust it is like living in a pitch black room, but every time someone does something for you its like someone coming in and lighting a candle. You need to focus on light.

This memorial is planned to be built at the National War Memorial Park in 2014.

If you want to know what the memorial will look like, have a look at this video clip made by the students:

It is unique in that the project has been organised by children for children and is an opportunity to teach and share the stories of the young victims of the Holocaust with the world.

The Holocaust Centre of New Zealand aims to collect and record the stories of Holocaust survivors who fled from Hitler’s Europe, came to New Zealand and made new lives here. Their stories are available for education and research purposes.

The project is supported by volunteers committed to telling the stories of those who suffered and those who were cruelly murdered, in ways that will inspire following generations, both Jewish and of other faiths, to combat intolerance wherever it occurs and respect the dignity of the lives of every man, woman and child.

New Zealand’s Button Memorial to the Children of the Holocaust

The United Nations Holocaust Remembrance Day in Wellington will be observed at the Makara Cemetery on Sunday, 27 January 2013 at 3.00 pm. The Mayor, Her Worship Celia Wade-Brown, will speak about the proposed New Zealand Button Memorial for the Children of the Holocaust. One of the children involved in the project will also speak.

Have you visited The Holocaust Centre of New Zealand in Webb Street?

Syndetics book coverA century of wisdom : lessons from the life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the world’s oldest living Holocaust survivor / Caroline Stoessinger.
“Renowned pianist, music teacher, and Holocaust survivor Herz-Sommer shares intimate memories, harrowing experiences, and valuable life lessons. Recognized as the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor at 107, her legacy and her wisdom extend far beyond the years she spent at the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Fellow musician and documentarian Stoessinger became acquainted with Herz-Sommer while working on a film about her life. From countless hours and interviews conducted over the course of several years, she has mined a treasure trove of insight and reflection. Herz-Sommer’s life is a tribute to the purity of artistic endeavor under the most devastating circumstances, and her refusal to be bitterly defined or essentially reshaped by tragedy is a testament to moral and spiritual courage. As the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles, it becomes increasingly important to capture and communicate their individual stories.” (Booklist)

Syndetics book coverThe girls of Room 28 : friendship, hope, and survival in Theresienstadt / Hannelore Brenner ; translated from the German by John E. Woods and Shelley Frisch.
“Brenner, a Berlin-based journalist, focuses on 10 former child survivors, women in their late 70s, who went through the Theresienstadt concentration camp during the Holocaust. She notes that 12,000 children entered the camp from 1942 to 1944, but only a few hundred survived to war’s end, and a handful of women of Room 28 in the camp’s Girls’ Home, now scattered around the world, reunited for the first time in 1991. The insights of the survivors and stories of the camp’s victims are unforgettable and full of poignant humanity, conveyed through letters, photos, diaries and remembrances. Forced into exile and almost certain death under the Nazi regime, the children confronted hunger, cold, terror and the soul’s endurance as many of the girls of Room 28 were slowly eliminated; the small band of survivors is committed to keeping their memory alive. Well-detailed and inspiring, Brenner’s book, especially her heartfelt epilogue, pays glowing tribute to these heroic survivors.” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverThe watchmaker’s daughter / Sonia Taitz.
“The Watchmaker’s Daughter tells the story of a child of two refugees: a watchmaker who saved lives within Dachau prison, and his wife, a gifted concert pianist about to make her debut when the Nazis seized power. In this memoir, Sonia Taitz is born into a world in which the Holocaust is discussed constantly by her insular concentration camp-surviving parents. This legacy, combined with Sonia’s passion and intelligence, leads the author to forge an adventurous life in which she seeks to heal both her parents and herself through travel, achievement, and a daring love affair. Ironically, it is her marriage to a non-Jew that brings her parents the peace and fulfillment they would never have imagined possible. Sonia manages to combine her own independence with a tender dutifulness, honoring her parents’ legacy while forging a new family of her own.” (Library Catalogue)

Syndetics book coverMy innocent absence : tales from a nomadic life / Miriam Frank.
“When five-year-old Miriam boards the Serpa Pinto in 1941, she is unaware that she and her mother Kate are escaping the roundups, separations and final extermination camps. She is leaving a world of communists and Nazis, republicans and fascists, collaborators and resistance fighters, Jews and stateless refugees. But sometimes the mere fact of survival is not enough. As adolescence approaches, Miriam faces new challenges as her mother turns from guardian and protector to her strongest critic. The constant flight and upheaval that once united them now seems to drive them apart. After a failed reconciliation with Miriam’s father, Kate moves again, this time to New Zealand. By the age of twelve Miriam has fled two wars and lived on three continents. Gradually understanding the horror of the Holocaust and its long shadow, she begins to train as a doctor, when only sixteen: the preservation of life and alleviation of pain becomes the focus of her professional career. She returns to Europe, settles in London and marries Kortokraks, a German artist, former assistant to Oscar Kokoschka – the start of yet more challenging and enriching experiences on her journey from a fragmented start to wholeness.” (Syndetics summary)

Learning English

Here are some new books in our Adult Learning collection for the more advanced reader: history, biography, mystery, take your pick!

The Footprint Reading Library introduces you to sights and sounds from around the world! Enjoy the stories to develop your English language skills in three easy steps!
Read the stories and learn new vocabulary
Listen to the stories on audio
Watch the stories come alive on video

Syndetics book coverAfghanistan’s heroic artists / Rob Waring, series editor.
“When the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, the religious group aimed to destroy any artistic expression that violated their strict interpretation of Islamic rules. A group of Afghan artists risked death by disobeying the Taliban to preserve the artwork of their country. Who are the men that saved Afghanistan’s art? How did they do it?” – Back cover

Quick Reads are bite-sized books by bestselling writers and well-known personalities for people who want a short, fast-paced read. They are designed to be read and enjoyed by avid readers and by people who never had or who have lost the reading habit. I decided to read some myself, and was not disappointed!

Syndetics book coverThe cave / Kate Mosse.
“A quick read – part of the World Book Day 2009 literacy initiative for emergent readers.March 1928. Freddie Smith is on a motoring holiday in the mountains of south west France. He is caught in a violent storm and his car crashes. He is forced to seek shelter in a boarding house in the nearby village of Axat.There he meets another guest in the tiny hotel, a pale and beautiful young woman called Marie. As the storm rages outside, she explains how the region was ripped apart by wars of religion in the 14th century. She tells how, one terrible night in March 1328, all the inhabitants of Axat were forced to flee from the soldiers into the mountains. The villagers took refuge in a cave, but when the fighting was over, no one came back. Their bodies were never found. Axat itself became a ghost town.When Freddie wakes the following morning, Marie has gone. Worse still, his car will take several days to repair and he has to stay at the boarding house for a few days more. To pass the time, he explores the mountains. Then he realises it is almost 600 years to the day since the villagers disappeared. He decides to go and look for the cave himself. Perhaps, he thinks, he might even find Marie? It is a decision he will live to regret.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA cool head / Ian Rankin.
“Gravy worked in the graveyard – that’s where he got his name. He was having a normal day until his friend Benjy turned up in a car he didn’t recognise. Benjy had a bullet hole in his chest…. Gravy is caught in the middle of a robbery gone wrong. He also has to deal with a woman who saw a murder, and some very unpleasant men who will do anything to get back the money Benjy stole…” – Back cover

Collins brings Agatha Christie, the Queen of Crime, to English language learners. These carefully adapted versions are shorter than the originals with the language graded for upper-intermediate learners.
Each title includes:

  • Notes on characters, history and culture
  • A glossary of the more difficult words
  • CD with a full reading of the adapted story
  • Online language activities and support for teachers

Syndetics book coverAppointment with death / [adapted from the novel by] Agatha Christie.
“Mrs Boynton, a cruel and hated woman, is found dead in the ancient city of Petra. Was it just a weak heart and too much sun that killed her, or has one of Mrs Boynton’s many victims found revenge? By chance, the great detective Hercule Poirot has some useful information, but is it enough to find the killer? He has 24 hours to solve the case”–Back cover

Syndetics book coverUnbowed / Wangari Muta Maathai ; retold by Jane Rollason.
And last but certainly not least the true story of Wangari Maathai who was born in the Kenyan Highlands. “Wangari started the Green Belt Movement which planted trees where forests were being desroyed. Environmental campaigns led to wider political protests and the fight for democracy – and when democracy was finally won, she became an elected politician. This is her story”. – Back cover.

New Adult Learning Books!

New books in our Adult Learning collection, something for everyone!

Syndetics book coverImpact issues. 2 / Richard R. Day, Joseph Shaules, Junko Yamanaka. “Impact Issues is an exciting series that provides timely themes for discussion. There are 3 levels. Level 2 is for high-begining and low-intermediate students. Each level features 20 content-based units on a range of topics such as: life goals, family ties, jobs, friendship, romantic relationships, ethics, technology, business, the environment and global communication.” (summary from bookcover)

Syndetics book coverNew headway. Pre-intermediate student’s book / John and Liz Soars. “Headway teaches real language in real contexts: Motivating topics, real people, and real places; grammar and vocabulary in context at every opportunity; everyday language in everyday situations.” (summary from book cover)

Syndetics book coverA handbook of spoken grammar : strategies for speaking natural English / Ken Paterson, Caroline Caygill and Rebecca Sewell.
“Using recent corpus research into spoken English the Handbook of Spoken Grammar teaches learners to speak more naturally, using the patterns that native speakers use when speaking English.” (summary from book cover)

Today is World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day falls on June the 20th every year and honours the courage, resilience and strength of refugees.

The history of refugee resettlement in New Zealand formally began with the intake of 800 Polish people, predominantly orphaned children, during the Second World War in 1944. Since this time New Zealand has continued to receive a range of people from diverse cultures including Eastern Europe, South East Asia, Africa and the Middle East all of whom have added to the richness of Aotearoa.

We have a wide range of refugee-themed books available at Wellington City Libraries which provide insight into the plight and circumstances of refugees internationally:

Syndetics book coverThe happiest refugee : the extraordinary true story of a boy’s journey from starvation at sea to becoming one of Australia’s best-loved comedians / Anh Do.
“The laugh-out-loud, reach-for-your-hanky story of one of Australia’s best-loved comedians. Anh Do nearly didn’t make it to Australia. His entire family came close to losing their lives on the sea as they escaped from war-torn Vietnam in an overcrowded boat. But nothing – not murderous pirates, nor the imminent threat of death by hunger, disease or dehydration as they drifted for days – could quench their desire to make a better life in the country they had dreamed about. Life in Australia was hard, an endless succession of back-breaking work, crowded rooms, ruthless landlords and make-do everything. But there was a loving extended family, and always friends and play and something to laugh about for Anh, his brother Khoa and their sister Tram.”

Syndetics book coverAcross many mountains : a Tibetan family’s epic journey from oppression to freedom / by Yangzom Brauen ; translated by Katy Derbyshire.
“Kunsang thought she would never leave Tibet. One of the country’s youngest Buddhist nuns, she married a monk, had two children, and lived in peace and prayer until the Chinese invasion in 1950 changed everything. Many stories lie hidden until the right person arrives to tell them. In rescuing the story of her now 90-year-old inspirational grandmother and mother, Yangzom Brauen gives us a book full of love, courage, and triumph.” (Library Catalogue)

Syndetics book coverBirds of clay / Aleksandra Lane.
“This … first collection (in English) mixes powerful lyrics, Serbian proverbs and literary experiments, and moves from the Balkan wars to New Zealand” (Publisher)

Syndetics book coverRefugee stories.
“These compelling stories – recounted by former refugees now living in New Zealand – provide a broad presentation of the refugee experience. They describe horrific events and situations, but also reflect the multifarious identities, cultures and strengths of each of the writers. The stories serve to remind us of the importance of humane and ethical behaviour in both our civic and personal lives. They also remind us of the resilience of the human spirit. Notably they teach us about survival, compassion, hope and optimism.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverI shall not hate : a Gaza doctor’s journey on the road to peace and human dignity / Izzeldin Abuelaish.I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity
“Abuelaish, a Palestinian physician and humanitarian whose daughters were killed by Israeli soldiers in 2009 during Israel’s incursion into the Gaza Strip, delivers a memoir that is by turns inspiring and heartbreaking, hopeful and horrifying” (Syndetics)

One of the many people with refugee backgrounds living in our community is Ukyaw Maung, a smiling man from Myanmar, who visits Newtown library every week with his class for reading support. You can read his story on our Community Stories page.