THE Yom Hashoah commemoration at Monash University’s Robert Blackwood Hall was particularly poignant this year as the theme shed light on the impact of World War II on Jews and Jewish populations that are sometimes overlooked.
Stories from the Sephardi communities of Southern Europe, the Jews in slave labour camps in Siberia and those fortunate to escape to Shanghai only to be enclosed in a ghetto were some of the experiences explored on the evening.
Through clips from the Jewish Holocaust Centre’s archives, musical renditions of Ladino lullabies and Russian poetry, the audience engaged in a different perspective of the impact of the Nazi occupation for Jews in greater Europe and beyond.
The event was hosted by the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV), whose president Jennifer Huppert told The AJN, “We thought it was time to focus more broadly than Europe and acknowledge the broad range of people impacted by the Shoah.
“It really reflected the breadth of the communities and people impacted.”
She said there were more than 1200 people in attendance, marking a significant increase from previous years.
On the night, Huppert presented to the audience and said, “We bear witness by hearing the stories of the members of our community who survived the horrors of the Shoah … By remembering, we ensure that those who did not survive are not forgotten.
“By remembering, we acknowledge the rich Jewish life disrupted in Europe and elsewhere. By remembering, we honour those Righteous Among the Nations, who risked their lives to save the lives of their neighbours.”
Jewish Holocaust Centre tour guide Gary Gray delivered a powerful survivor testimony, relaying his experiences working in several slave labour camps as a 13-year-old boy.
He described hearing the news that his parents and sister had been deported to Auschwitz to be gassed and feeling as if he had been “ripped apart from his family”.
Gray said, “Not a day passes where I don’t think about them. I see them and my little sister hanging on to her mother in that gas chamber dying.”
Gray concluded with a more hopeful message: “How could I possibly have known that more than half-a-century later I would be standing in an auditorium in a university, in another city, in another country.
“Telling my Holocaust [story] and that there would be a day of the Shoah … How could I know that there would be a State of Israel?”