New exhibition at the museum

December 11, 2014 by Roz Tarszisz
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A new exhibition – Signs of Life, Letters of the Holocaust – has been launched at the Sydney Jewish Museum.

Aviva Wolff, Andrew Denton, curator Rosalyn Sugerman and CEO Norman Seligman

Aviva Wolff, Andrew Denton, curator Ros Sugerman and CEO Norman Seligman     Photo: Ben Apfelbaum/J-Wire

The Museum holds some 1000 Nazi and postwar era letters and postcards in its collection. This exhibition makes public some of the private and poignant correspondence, thanks to a generous donation by the JCA Szlamek and Ester Lipman Memorial Endowment Fund.

The letters, painstakingly translated by volunteers and survivors, detail the agony of families as they tried to keep in touch as well as official letters from organisations trying to trace people.

Reflecting on the past year, museum CEO Norman Seligman said that of 45,000 museum visitors, over 20,000 were school students. He paid tribute to 30 survivor guides and their importance as “living historians”.

Andrew Denton

Andrew Denton    Photo: Ben Apfelbaum/J-Wire

President Gus Lehrer commented that it was gratifying to see so many easily fitting into its brand new hall. The Museum’s central theme of personal responsibility is one that he hoped visiting students gained from their visit. He thanked the Eckstein family for their generosity in setting up the Endowment Fund and curators Ros Sugerman, Shannon Biederman and their staff for their efforts in preparing the exhibition.

On behalf of her family, Lisa Eckstein, said that it was fitting that her family’s long association with the Museum would be continued by the Endowment Fund.

Guest of honour, Andrew Denton officially opened the exhibition. His appearance mid-year in the SBS series “Who Do You Think You Are” – was the catalyst. While Denton

Curators Shannon Biederman and Ros Sugerman

Curators Shannon Biederman and Ros Sugerman

knew he had a Jewish grandfather his family knowledge was slight. Shooting his story was a journey that took him into “the darkest part of the dark heart of the Holocaust”. The day he spent at Treblinka was unforgettable.

“It was the most powerful three weeks of my life, and letters from the past lay at the heart of it” he said.

“A letter is a most powerful link to history” and while a fraction are included, their emotional impact is great. The urgency of the writers’ voices is as “shockingly immediate today as it was when it was written” said Denton.

“We keep on writing page after page into the never never, and there is no reply” wrote Isador Pollak he quoted.

The first letters in the rare instances of reunion after the war tell searing tales of suffering, and of joy that a loved one still lived.


Checking out the exhibits Photo: Ben Apfelbaum/J-Wire


The exhibition is currently open.

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