Age is no bar to excellence

October 22, 2014 by Roz Tarszisz
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Following 10 years’ work and 200,000 words, a Holocaust survivor’s unfinished PhD thesis has been recognised by an Adelaide university.

Maria Scheffer

Maria Scheffer

Getting old is no fun. The body gets frail, looks change and sometimes memory recedes. In the case of Maria Scheffer, the first two may hold some truth but the last most certainly does not.

For 83-yr-old Maria, a survivor of Auschwitz, Belsen and Theresienstadt, the past is as clear today as it was almost 70 years ago when she was liberated at the latter.

Living in Sydney for many years, she worked as a beautician. When her health failed, she went to Adelaide to be near her sister and commenced studies, gaining a BA and an LLB.

The university letter

The university letter

Deciding to study for a PhD in Law, she chose the topic “War Crime Trials in Australia: An analysis of the decisions behind the prosecution of WWII war criminals in Australia and a comparison of the outcomes with prosecutions mounted in the UK and Canada” .

This was, and still is, a subject very close to her heart. Her thesis focused on the Adelaide war crimes trial of Ivan Polyukhovich which ended in him walking free in 1993. This is something that makes her angry still.

When asked if she had attended his trial, Ms Scheffer told J-Wire it would have been far too painful to listen to his defence.

She spent ten years, and wrote approximately 200,000 words on the topic but owing to deteriorating health was unable to finish and graduate. A modern woman, Maria has her thesis safe on a memory stick.

Early this month Flinders University sent a letter of recommendation in recognition of her dedication in continuing to progress her thesis, despite r challenging circumstances.

When asked if there was a possibility of returning to it, she would not discount the idea.

“It would take a lot of effort and I would need to get the knives out to cut it” she said dryly.

The past is still raw but her memory and wit are sharp and Maria views her life and present situation with great clarity. Now resident in the Sir Moses Montefiore Home in Randwick, Sydney, she has met another survivor from Theresienstadt.

When J-Wire inquired if they discussed their shared experience, she acknowledged that they had. However painful, shying from the truth would not be Maria Scheffer’s style.




2 Responses to “Age is no bar to excellence”
  1. Esther Oliver says:

    Wow. Yishar koach. What an inspiration. May your every day be a wonderful day.

  2. Dr. Efraim Zuroff says:

    Would be interested in reading a copy..

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