The Melbourne Holocaust
By Aaron O'Shannessy
Broadford Secondary College
The Melbourne Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Center, is a museum which is managed by volunteers, who are mainly survivors of the Holocaust. They are dedicated to telling people of all ages, race or creed, about the atrocities which can occur due to racism. I once read a quote at Auschwitz, which I think would be the museum's motto:
"The one who does not remember history
is bound to live it through again."
We first became involved with the museum in 1994, when we were fund-raising for the Poland/Israel Study Mission. Our small group of four students and one teacher, were taken under the wing of caring survivors, in our effort to raise sufficient funds for the Study Mission.
After explaining to the survivors about the project we were involved in and the plans we had to visit Poland and its notorious concentration camps, we were taken in by the survivors as their "special" children.
The survivors not only supplied us with many fundraising ideas, but told us all about their lives during the Holocaust. Over the first few months we became close with various survivors and learned the intimate details of the terrible years which they and their families endured during World War II. We learned of the horrific stories of Thea, who is the sole survivor of her family of thirty-nine and of Suzie, who was holding her mother's hand as she was shot dead on banks of the Danube River.
This, personally, urged me more to participate in the Poland/Israel Study Mission because it felt that we were a part of their tight family. We would not only pay our respects to their families who were murdered in one of the notorious death/concentration camps, but remember the this dark time in history, and pass on the legacy of today's survivors, that we should never forget.
From visiting the museum many times over the months before our trip, we learnt so much about the Holocaust not just from displays, but from living and breathing people. Accompanied by many of these visits were various media meetings which involved the museum and its many survivors. We had articles in Melbourne's largest paper, The Herald-Sun, our regional newspapers, The Free Press, The Seymour Telegraph and also a few articles in Melbourne's Jewish News. We were also interviewed by ABC's R7.30 report program. The media coverage was very beneficial for the Melbourne Jewish Holocaust Museum because this showed the people of Melbourne one of the most unknown, yet fantastic and most educational museums of Melbourne.
After returning from our trip, we were invited to a luncheon at Suzie's house with some of the people from the Melbourne Jewish Holocaust Museum. Suzie cooked a very delicious dish, Hungarian goulash, which was passed onto her from her mother. Afterwards, we sat and looked at photos and talked of the many things we saw in the concentration camps of Poland. It was very moving for all of us, the survivors and ourselves, for when we were talking about where we had been, one of the survivors would tell a story of some thing that had happened to them during the Holocaust in that concentration camp. They had no qualms about telling us everything, which made us feel as if we were a part of their special group.
I think we became closer to the survivors this day than ever before, as we both shared something special. We had been to the same places where their relatives had been killed. We could only imagine what it must have felt like being herded off the train into the labour camp of Auschwitz, and then have your mother sent in the other direction to the gas chambers.
During the three years we have been involved with the museum, our teachers have taken many classes on excursions to the museum. It started off as an excursion with the Year 11 history class in 1995. This led to our Year 12 English class going in 1996 to give some background on the reading of the memoir, Elli, and now it seems it will be an annual excursion with Year 12 English this year going to the museum for background information for the film, Schindler's List.
Any people interested in visiting the Melbourne Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Center, can find it in Melbourne at 13 Selwyn Street, Elsternwick.
I do recommend that young children are not taken as they may not understand what is happening. The museum is mainly aimed at adults and older school students. I first went when I was 15 years old, so I would recommend the youngest I would take would be 13 or 14 years old. The Melbourne Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Center hours are:
Monday - Friday: 10.00 A.M. until 2.00 P.M.
Sunday: 11.00 A.M. until 3.00 P.M.
Copyright © 1997-2005 by iEARN. All rights reserved.
Access the HGP's An End to Intolerance Web page.
Access the Holocaust/Genocide Project's Home Page.
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