Holocaust survivor Phillip Maisel passes away a week after his 100th birthday

August 23, 2022 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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On July 31, Phillip Maisel celebrated his 100th birthday with his twin sister Bella Hirshhorn in Melbourne.

Yesterday he passed away.

July 31 was the twins’ birthday but their records showed August 15, the date they gave the Nazis in case they were caught.

Twins Phillip Maisel and Bella Hirshorn.

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria stated: “The JCCV wishes long life to the family, friends and colleagues of Holocaust survivor Phillip Maisel OAM. Phillip was a much-loved member of the Victorian Jewish community, a participant in community Yom Hashoah memorial services and an engaging and dedicated Holocaust educator.

Phillip volunteered at the Melbourne Holocaust Museum for over 30 years, recording the testimonies of Holocaust survivors and allowing their stories and experiences to be preserved for posterity. In 2021, he launched his memoirs, called “The Keeper of Miracles”. Phillip, and his twin Bella, had just celebrated their 100th birthday, with his life and work honoured by the Melbourne Holocaust Museum.”


The Melbourne Holocaust Museum also issued a statement on the passing of Phillip Maisel.

Emigrating to Australia in 1949, Phillip became a volunteer at the MHM in 1990. From 1992 – 2021 he was Director of the Testimonies Department. He has recorded over 1000 video testimonies of fellow Holocaust survivors and has been a central figure in preserving the voices of the Holocaust for future generations.

Phillip celebrated his 100th birthday on 15 August with his twin sister Bella Hirshorn. During a birthday interview with NewsWire, Phillip shared his 11 lessons for life, displaying his “eternally optimistic” spirit describing, “it is very important to be optimistic, to show your happiness to others… There is enormous pleasure in giving. It is a privilege. And you should take advantage of it. This will bring happiness – the ability to give and not to take.

The Melbourne Holocaust Museum team was thrilled to put on a special screening of his 2021 interview with Dr Stephen Smith MBE, who opened the screening with a heartfelt birthday message.

Glad to have had the opportunity to celebrate Phillip’s 100th birthday just last week, MHM CEO Jayne Josem had this to say about her long-term colleague and dear friend:

“Phillip was such a remarkable man that we celebrated his achievements twice – at 99 when he retired and last week when he turned 100.

Those of us who worked with Phillip feel privileged to have had him as a colleague; to some, he became a friend, and to all, he was a quiet and determined inspiration.

We extend our sympathies to his twin sister Bella Hirshorn and all his family.

MHM Co-President of the Board Pauline Rockman, who had a close bond with Phillip, said, “his spirit lives on in our hearts and minds, and his legacy will endure. I will miss him so much.”

Phillip’s legacy will live on through the Phillip Maisel Testimony Project, a collection of over 1500 Holocaust survivor testimonies, as well as with the staff and volunteers at the museum who share his motivation to preserve the voices of the Holocaust:

“This is my responsibility and my privilege: to be the custodian of their memories, to be able to pass their stories on to the next generation – for me, this will be the greatest miracle of all,” – Phillip Maisel OAM.

Dr Colin Rubenstein, executive director, Australia/Israel& Jewish Affairs Council, said: “Phillip Maisel will long be remembered with gratitude by the Jewish and wider community. With calm determination and commitment, he generously shared his life experiences, helping to educate generations about the horrors of Nazism and the devastation of the Holocaust. He taught that we must never forget where hatred can lead and the importance of treating all others with respect and dignity. He had an amazing spirit, with his motto “always be positive”,  and showed tireless devotion to record 1400 interviews with Holocaust survivors, adding greatly to Australians’ understanding of the darkest period in history.  He will be sorely missed.”

Perth-based Eli Rabinowitz had a special relationship with Holocaust survivor Phillip as he knew Hirsch Glik, a poet who wrote the Partisans’ Song.

Rabinowitz has promoted this song across the globe as a tool for counteracting racism and antisemitism.

He shares these two videos of interviews he conducted with the late Phillip Maisel.


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Phillip Maisel during the interview with Eli Rabinowitz

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