Located just below Heritage Quay, in the Schwann Building, is the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association Holocaust Exhibition and Learning Centre. The Centre brings this piece of history directly to us, and really is a must-see for students.
The Centre tells the story of 16 men, women and their families. I spoke to a young lady who was looking around the exhibition with her mum, and they said that they have been to a number of different Auschwitz and Holocaust Memorial Exhibitions and they both agreed that this exhibition is unique in the way it focuses more on the individual stories of the families rather than Hitler and the Nazis.
As you enter, you’re greeted by family pictures of those featured in the exhibition. These are all Jewish families from mainland Europe, black and white photos of families whose lives were changed forever.
I sat on a bench and read about Hitler’s rise to power and viewed the propaganda posters on display. Then a voice started, it was the voice of one of the women featured in the photos. She was talking about how Jewish life was in Nazi Germany, mainly the segregation. She explained that there were even benches made strictly for Jewish people. I sat back and tried to understand the torment that these people were put through, on a physical level and also the psychological torment of being told where they were allowed to sit, that they were inferior just because of their beliefs.
Throughout the Learning Centre you read about the history of Nazi Germany and the key moments that happened in those years. There are written letters and diary entries along with a prison uniform. By including all of these pieces, it made all the stories so personal, and seeing the uniform was possibly the most touching thing to see.
But the most interesting and emotional part for me was the ‘Toni Schiff Auditorium’ which shows a short film played on a loop. It focuses on Toni’s story as they talk about the women murdered in Auschwitz in 1942. Toni talks about the story of their family and Toni’s own experience. Hearing the story in the survivor’s own words, assisted by clips and photos from the time, was very moving.
I feel the whole Centre has the right balance between historical facts, personal artefacts and recollections of what happened. Again I encourage you to go and experience this amazing piece of history, even if you only have a spare half hour, you will find it fascinating, informative and moving.
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