On loan to the Sydney Jewish Museum…from Auschwitz

June 22, 2012 by Henry Benjamin
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The Sydney Jewish Museum has received artifacts on loan from Auschwitz…and survivors witnessed the handover.

Survivors of Auschwitz-Birkenau: David Benedikt, Lotte Weiss, Alex Lowy, Eddie Jaku, Marika Weinberger, Anna Reich, Maia Sonnabend, Alex Ferson, Ruth Shell, Olga Horak, Harry Fransman and Margaret Odze   Pic: henry Benjamin

The artifacts

Anna Lopuska

The museum has already placed the items on display one day after receiving them from Anna Lopuska, the Deputy Head of the Preservation Department at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Lopuska brought with her a pair each of men’s women’s and children’s shoes, two spectacles, a powder compact, two toothbrushes, a comb, a hairbrush.

…and an empty Zyklon B container. The Nazis used Zyklon B to gas their victims.

Prior to the handover, Lopuska addressed an audience of which many had survived Auschwitz.

She said that preservation of the former concentration camp had not started until 2002 mentioning that the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign which confronts visitors is in special care at the moment and the sigh on display is a replica.

Lopuska referred to trees which had just been cut down. She said: “We cut down trees which were witnesses of what happened in these camps but they have become dangerous for the visitors and the builders. We are replanting the same species.”

She said the the Volkswagen car company bring German and Polish youth to Auschwitz to do voluntary work on the preservation programs. In a solemn moment she said that the crematoria were proving difficult to preserve but the work was progressing slowly.

Auschwitz receives 1.4 million visitors each year and the program to preserve it is expected to cost 120m Euros.

CEO of the Sydney Jewish Museum Norman Seligman told J-Wire that he expected to replenish the artifacts when the two year period is up.

He added: “We have spent many years negotiating with Auschwitz to obtain these artifacts for display at the Museum. As the years pass, and Survivors are no longer in the Museum to tell about their experiences, the need to display artifacts from the camps becomes more important because these objects powerfully evoke the history and the memory of the Holocaust.  Probably the most powerful are the shoes and particularly the children’s shoes – one and a half million Jewish children were murdered “.




One Response to “On loan to the Sydney Jewish Museum…from Auschwitz”
  1. Anna says:

    Dear Editors and Readers of the Jewish Online News from Australia and New Zealand,

    The interest of the media in the loan from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and in the accompanying lecture is truly positive. Especially for me it was particularly deep and personal experience. Awkwardly, after having read the article published by Mr. Henry Benjamin on June 22nd, I feel obliged to send some corrections as I found the meaning of my statements significantly distorted.

    It is not true that “preservation of the former concentration camp had not started until 2002”. 2002 marked an employment of the first professional conservator within Museum’s structures, building up the conservation team and beginning of thinking about the strategy of systematic preservation of the site. Before 2002 most of the preservation works in the Museum was entrusted to the professionals active in the conservation market, on contract basis.

    I did not say that “the trees have become dangerous for the builders”. The trees of the species Populus nigra ‘Italica’, which were planted in the area of former Auschwitz I have reached the age of the natural process of decay, which makes them weak, brittle and therefore dangerous for the visitors and the buildings. The verdure on site is under a special preservation program and the trees that had to be removed due to their languishment are replaced with the same species and on the same spots, according to the arrangements of trees from the camps period.

    Finally, the sum of 120 million Euro is not a “cost of preservation program”, but the amount to be gathered for the Perpetual Fund for the purposes of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation. The annual interest of 4-5 million Euro will enable to plan and systematically carry out essential conservation works in the long-term perspective. This is the first time in its history, when the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial has a real chance of creating an ongoing, permanent conservation program that will make it possible to safeguard the remains of the camp for future generations. More information can be found on the following website: http://www.auschwitz.org

    With hope that this clarification will bring the readers closer to the real picture of what is going on at the Auschwitz-Birkenau site I am sending my best regards to all the J-wire crew and its readers,

    Anna Lopuska
    Preservation Department
    Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oswiecim

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