Holocaust

Shortly before Simon Tedeschi’s grandmother, Lucy Gershwin, died sixteen years ago, she recorded a memoir of her wartime years. Gershwin, a Polish Jew, was the only survivor of a family obliterated by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Simon Tedeschi’s powerful essay, ‘This woman my grandmother’, reflects on the moment he decided to read her memoirs and encounter the tragic outlines of a life that remains shaded by a reticence typical of her generation.

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Not many people create an archive. For almost thirty years, Phillip Maisel led the testimonies project at Melbourne’s Jewish Holocaust Centre (JHC). Maisel’s memoir is his story of surviving the Holocaust and becoming ‘the keeper of miracles’.

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Westerbork is the name of a transit camp located in the Netherlands. You transitioned from Westerbork to your final destination by means of the Nationale Spoorwegen (the national railways). Eddy de Wind, a Dutch Jewish psychiatrist, met his future wife, Friedel, in Westerbork. Both were sent to Auschwitz in 1943. Eddy was sent to Block 9 as part of the medical staff, Friedel to Block 10 to work as a Pfleger (nurse). Block 10 was administered by the Lagerartz (senior camp doctor), Josef Mengele.

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Anne Frank: Parallel Stories 

Sharmill Films
by
11 October 2019

Earlier this year, not being able to find my childhood copy of Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl for my eldest daughter, I bought another one. It seemed bigger than I had remembered, but the cover had the same recognisable photo of the demurely smiling Anne gazing somewhere into the distance – a wisp of a girl with distinctive dark features that would have made it highly unlikely for her to ‘pass’ as anything other than Jewish. The book bore a label that seemed to be making a dubious claim: ‘The Definitive Edition’. Was it more definitive than the journal I had read when I was a similar age to the girl who wrote it, as my daughter is now?

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In 1985, at La Trobe University, a sociology undergraduate is in a tutorial with his supervisor. He has chosen to write 6000 words on the role of art and the artist in capitalist societies and his sixty-four-year-old tutor has, rather surprisingly, encouraged him.

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The Holocaust is a subject which numbs the mind and petrifies the soul. This is the point at which Inga Clendinnen starts her remarkable set of essays about it. The Holocaust is a Gorgon and the only way to destroy it, Perseus-like, is to hold it’s image on the screen of the shield and stare back. The historian of The Aztecs, this remarkable woman who has always attended to the inflections of human pain, says at the outset that extreme suffering should be paid attention. She has lived in interesting times without partaking of the horror and this is her amends. This remarkable exercise in metahistory, this sustained meditation about the nature of historiography – an essay in which criticism and representation keep coming together and breaking apart – began with Clendinnen’s sense of the inadequacy of her own response to the Demidenko controversy and it ends, not inappropriately, with a discussion of the relative claims of literature and historical writing in the face of the Holocaust Medusa.

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Several books could and doubtless will be written to explore the sociological and psychological puzzles attending Helen Darville’ s remarkable masquerade. Robert Manne has no interest in the motivations of Helen Darville. His concerns are cultural and political, and therefore focus on the fictional character, Helen Demidenko: on her writings and statements, and on the responses of Australian intellectuals to those writings and statements during her brief life from 1992 to late August, 1995.

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