Rescuers: Honouring the Righteous Among Nations

December 1, 2016 by Natalia Thomas
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Next week, the Sydney Jewish Museum will launch I Am My Brother’s Keeper Honouring the Righteous Among the Nations. 

Transit visa baring the stamp of Sugihara. The document was issued to Mr Jakob Sapir, Mrs Tola Sapir and their four year old son Piotr- Seweryn Sapir in lieu of passports, allowing the family to travel safely through Japan. SJM Collection

Transit visa baring the stamp of Sugihara. The document was issued to Mr Jakob Sapir, Mrs Tola Sapir and their four year old son Piotr- Seweryn Sapir in lieu of passports, allowing the family to travel safely through Japan. SJM Collection

This travelling exhibition, developed in partnership with Yad Vashem in Israel, highlights the ordinary heroes who risked their lives (and those of their families) to save Jews during the Holocaust.

Using photography, narrative and artefacts from the Museum collection, the exhibition aims to deepen awareness and understanding of the human capacity for good during periods of moral collapse. The exhibit has been specifically tailored to tell the ‘Australian story’ shining a spotlight on the Righteous and their descendants who settled in Australia.

Jack Feiler. Saved by the Chucherko family who are honoured in the exhibition. SJM Collection

Jack Feiler. Saved by the Chucherko family who are honoured in the exhibition. SJM Collection

Head Curator, Roslyn Sugarman said “While the Holocaust can be viewed as a case study in indifference, there were rare individuals who defied the norm, objecting to the persecution of millions. These men, women and children regarded these acts as little more than expressions of decency towards friends, neighbours and strangers.”

Individuals showcased include Sempo Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who served as a Vice-Consul in Lithuania. In direct opposition to his superiors, Sugihara issued thousands of transit visas to Jewish men and women whose lives were imperilled. This exhibition specifically recognises 38 families who survived because of Sugihara’s actions and came to settle in Australia.

The van As are another family profiled in the exhibition. Adrianus van As, served as the Director of Distribution office of the Westerbork Transit Camp. He was able to save hundreds of his Jewish workers and their families by erasing their names from the camp deportation lists.

On 8 April 1945, van As contacted the approaching Canadian forces and advised them not to attack the camp as its prisoners were Jews. In 1953, he and his family moved to Australia and settled in Sydney. Today, his son, the Reverend. Adrian van As lives in Sydney.

Says Sugarman “The exhibition is a pointed and poignant demonstration of how the actions of one individual can make all the difference in the face of organised violence. We hope that this is a message that will stay with our visitors long after they leave.”

The exhibition will open on Tuesday, December 6th.

 

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