Precious Objects

August 27, 2018 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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When Holocaust survivors hold up an object to the camera and tell the story behind it, the object is no longer just a blanket, a jacket, a photo. It becomes sacred.  The subject of this weekend’s ABC-TV’s Compass program.

With exclusive access to the collection at the Sydney Jewish Museum Compass spends time with the people who are passionate about sharing the stories behind these precious objects.

Precious Objects is a powerful documentary in which Holocaust survivors tell their stories through an object they managed to keep from that time. When survivors hold up their object to the camera and tell the story behind it, the object is no longer just a blanket, a jacket, a photo. It becomes almost sacred while still being tangible evidence of lived experience.

What we’re really doing is taking something very ordinary, very humble and giving it the respect that we believe it deserves”.


Roslyn Sugarman, Head curator, Sydney Jewish Museum

In Precious Objects six survivors introduce the ‘object’ they have donated to the collection at the Sydney Jewish Museum. Olga holds the blanket thrown at her as she lay in the mud, half dead on the day Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was liberated. Olga kept this blanket and years later donated it to the Jewish museum. It held a shocking secret that was only revealed when it was sent to a laboratory for testing.

Olga Horak and Ros Sugerman

No I wasn’t shocked, I knew it was from human hair. The blanket was woven in Auschwitz by inmates for the SS people…the hair which was shaven from us was from living human beings”

Olga Horak, Survivor


George was twelve when WW2 broke out. He donated his striped concentration camp jacket to the museum. As he holds it in his lap, he marvels at its size.

The jacket is so small that I wouldn’t probably be able to cover half of my body”

George Grojnowski, Survivor


Jacqueline Dale

Jacqueline is a child survivor. Throughout the war, she and her brother Charlie were hidden in orphanages on the French border. Jacqueline donated a boat her father – who did not survive -made for Charlie.

“We didn’t know what was going on in the world.  We thought it was just men fighting each other but we had no idea what Hitler was doing to the Jewish people”

Jacqueline Dale, Survivor


Not all the survivors we meet have an object from their time in the camps. Yvonne survived Auschwitz but had nothing to bring out with her. When the curators asked if she would like to make a donation, she chose something given to her from the safety of her new home in Australia.

“I told Ros that I have got that dish from Woollies which was our wedding present.  It must have cost 2 pounds, maybe not even.  And what it means to me, how I looked after it all these years how meaningful it is”

Yvonne Engleman, Survivor

These are just some of the stories told through the objects of the survivors in this compelling and uplifting story. Yvonne’s last words say it all, ‘Whatever Hitler had in mind, he didn’t succeed.’


Saturday 1 September on ABC TV and ABC iview at 6pm 

Website: Twitter: hashtag #ABCcompass


One Response to “Precious Objects”
  1. Adrian Jackson says:

    The reliable ABC TV does it again with this Compass documentary.

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