Mar-21 Sydney: The Story behind Hana’s Suitcase

March 2, 2010 by Community Editor
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The Director of the Tokyo Holocaust Centre will attend the screening of a movie based on one of the Centre’s exhibits.

We are delighted that Fumiko Ishioka, Director of the tokyo Holocaust Centre, together with George Brady’s daughter, lara, will be at the Museum for a discussion on the remarkable documentary Hana’s Suitcase. Sponsored by John and Debbie Schaffer.

The compelling story of Hana’s Suitcase attempts to piece together the life of Hana Brady (born in Nove Mesto, Czechoslovakia) who was murdered in Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944, aged 13, having spent two years in Theresienstadt concentration camp.

Hana’s carefree childhood was cut short when Hitler was elected to power. At first, the laws restricting Jews were a nuisance but not unbearable, however as the months rolled on, Hana and her brother George found that they could no longer go to the movies, play in the park, skate on the lake or even attend school. Her friends, though faithful at first, became afraid to associate with her and she found herself isolated and lonely. When forced to wear a yellow Star of David in public, Hana, dreading the humiliation, decided to remain at home. The gaiety and joy of life disappeared, yet she and her brother maintained their spirit by remembering earlier happy times and recording their frustrations in a time- capsule which they buried.

Shortly after this, Hana’s mother was taken to Ravensbruck women’s concentration camp in Germany. They never saw their mother again. Within months, their father, Karel, was also taken from them, leaving Hana and George alone in the world. Although a non-Jewish uncle took them in, it was not long before they, too, were transported to Terezin (Theresienstadt). Hana was murdered two years later on her arrival at Auschwitz.

Halfway around the world from the devastation of Europe and 50 years later, Fumiko Ishioka, museum curator of the Tokyo Holocaust Centre, inspired by the testimonies of Holocaust survivors she met at a conference in Israel,became determined to teach Japanese children of the plight of millions of Jewish children in World War II.

From Auschwitz she acquired a few artefacts: a child’s sock, a shoe, a child’s sweater, a can of Zyclon B poisonous gas and Hana’s suitcase, the first items for her Holocaust exhibit.

In her role as curator dedicated to furthering tolerance in the world, Fumiko explored many avenues in her search for information regarding the owner of the precious suitcase, now a feature item in her museum display. A trip to Poland and Czechoslovakia revealed little until a breakthrough occurred at the museum of Theresienstadt, where Fumiko was delighted to learn that Hana’s older brother, George, was alive and living in Canada. Her letters to George resulted in his eventual trip to Japan and to the writing of this moving story – a testimony to the life of Hana and other children like her and a product of the determination of Fumiko Ishioka.

4.30pm Screening of Hana’s Suitcase, in the auditorium. Running time 93 minutes.

7pm Discussion The Story Surrounding Hana’s Suitcase, in the Benefactors’ Hall.

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