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Holocaust survivor Lena Goldstein
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Voices from the ashes

The enduring significance of Holocaust survivor testimony in the 21st century
An esteemed panel will discuss how the testimony of Holocaust survivors is used today and the problems, questions and opportunities it presents to people grappling with the legacy of the Holocaust.

The destruction of European Jewry during the Second World War is among the most documented and discussed events in human history.

Acknowledging the testimony of survivors allows us to truly grapple with the historical, moral and philosophical questions that confront us when we study and teach about the Holocaust. Institutions such as the Sydney Jewish Museum were established by survivors and have given centrality to their voices and memories.

In one sense their voices are from the grave – their testimony bears witness to an atrocity that they were not supposed to survive.

In 2018 living survivors are scarce, but new technologies allow visitors to hear their voices and memories. Beyond teaching, commemoration and representation of the Holocaust, one crucial question for museums, educators, academics and psychotherapists is what purpose is served by survivors sharing their memories, reliving and possibly transmitting their trauma?

An esteemed panel that includes Clinical Associate Professor Michael Robertson, Dr Avril Alba, Dr Ari Lander and Ms Jacqui Wasilewsky will discuss this key question. Panel members will explore oral history, how the testimony of Holocaust survivors is used today and the problems, questions and opportunities it presents to people grappling with the legacy of the Holocaust.

This event was held on Thursday 6 September at University of Sydney.


The Speakers:

  • Jonathan Ari Lander is an Education Officer at the Sydney Jewish Museum. He completed his doctorate on the History at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in 2012. At UNSW he taught a range of subjects including Zionism, Modern Jewish History and Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
  • Avril Alba is Lecturer in Holocaust Studies and Jewish Civilisation at the University of Sydney. From 2002-11 she was the education director at the Sydney Jewish Museum. She teaches, researches and consults in the areas of Holocaust representation, Jewish and museum studies.
  • Jacqui Wasilewsky is Manager of Community Stories at the Sydney Jewish Museum. Her department has recorded more than 150 interviews and published 76 biographies. Jacqui completed a BA/LLB in 1987 and MA (History) in 1998 at UNSW and Certificate of Interactive Multimedia in 2004 at UTS.
  • Michael Robertson is a Clinical Associate Professor of Mental Health Ethics at the Sydney Health Ethics Centre and a visiting Professorial Fellow at the Sydney Jewish Museum. His academic interests include traumatic stress, psychotherapy, the depiction of psychiatry in cinema and human rights abuses perpetrated by psychiatrists under National Socialism in Germany. He conducts the research program "Psychiatry and the State", currently focusing on the Holocaust and the National Socialist period in Germany (1933-45).


Image credit: Holocaust survivor Lena Goldstein. Photographer Katherine Griffiths. Sydney Jewish Museum Collection.

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