A time to remember

January 29, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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The President of the Senate Senator Scott Ryan, the Australian Ambassador to Poland Lloyd Brodrick and Robert Goot Deputy President of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry met with Sydney survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau Yvonne Engelman, in Kasimiricz  Krakow before the Commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on International Holocaust Remembrance Day 27th January.

Robert Goot spoke about the meeting:

Yvonne Engelman and Robert Goot

Yvonne Engelman and Robert Goot

92-yr-old Yvonne Engelman, who with her three children and one of her grandchildren had just visited her former home town in Czechoslovakia, related some of her experiences during the war, her internment in and liberation from Birkenau, her travel to Sydney via Freemantle at the end of the War and the making with her husband of a new life in Australia.

Both Senator Scott and Ambassador Brodrick remarked on Yvonne’s astonishing courage determination and optimism, displayed in her inspiring story. They were taken also by her insistence on the need to educate coming generations on the evils of the Shoah, noting the role her late husband had taken with others, in founding the Australian Association of Holocaust Survivors and Descendants and convening the International Gathering of Survivors in Sydney in the 1970s.

We discussed her experiences as a guide at the Sydney Jewish Museum and in particular the reaction of the more than 28,000 students who visit the SJM each year, to what they see and hear there.

The next evening Yvonne and her children together with 100 other survivors of Auschwitz-Birkenau were honoured guests at a dinner for survivors and their families. 700 people attended and were addressed by President Zelensky of Ukraine, survivors and the President of the WJC, Ambassador Ronald S Lauder. When I caught up with Yvonne during the dinner she was taking the emotional event in her stride. One can only imagine what was going through her mind.

When I sought her out sitting in the front row just before the start of the  Commemoration event, attended by 3,000 people including survivors and their families, the leaders of 61 nations, dignitaries, officials, delegation and citizens, unsurprisingly she was feeling overwhelmed by the significance of the event, her presence there, her experiences and the amazing journey and life that she had led after pulling herself out of the abyss of Birkenau.

The commemoration that was a most fitting tribute to Yvonne and her fellow survivors.

We are unlikely to see again people with the outstanding qualities of Yvonne and her fellow survivors passed and living.

The rail entry to Birkenau

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