August is National Family History Month in Australia and New Zealand. During this month many libraries, museums as well as history and genealogy groups hold family history related events where possible under COVIDSafe conditions or online.
It was perfect timing to have our new visiting exhibition Let Me Be Myself: The Life story of Anne Frank to open this month as it delves into the history of the Frank family.
Behind the scenes at AHMSEC, our curator Pauline Cockrill continues to research family histories of South Australian Holocaust survivors and add to the burgeoning database of almost 150 names. This information is being used to develop a new exhibition telling the stories of those survivors who made South Australia home whether as refugees escaping the Nazi regime in Europe in the 1930s or later as post-war migrants. A shortened version of the database will also eventually be available on our website.
Pauline is indebted to those who have already shared their family histories or details of names to follow up. Much information was gleaned through our Connecting Fragments event during South Australia’s History Festival in May and we’d like to share a story from Linda Hall of Nairne in the Adelaide Hills. It demonstrates the challenges of those who have both Holocaust survivors and victims within their family tree, and the importance of piecing together the scanty details available in historic documents and personal memories to validate a family history.
Linda has been gradually piecing together the story of her Uncle Abe, the brother of her mother Tauba. He was born Abram Glidman in 1913 into a Jewish family in Warsaw and arrived in Australia in 1948 after the International Red Cross had located him in Paris to reconnect him with Tauba’s family in NSW. Like many Holocaust survivors, Abe did not freely talk about his past and he only began to write down a little of his story when he was quite elderly. He died aged 88 in Sydney in 2001.
Linda and her sister have been trying to connect the meagre fragments of information behind their uncle’s survival and what happened to other members of his Polish family. When Germany invaded Poland in 1939 Abe was a 25-year-old tailor. He wrote that it was ‘clear that the Jewish citizens of Poland were marked for complete destruction’ and he ‘didn’t want to be slaughtered like a wild creature’. So when Jews began to be forcibly moved into ghettos, he and his elder brother Gedalia and his family tried to escape. It was then that he witnessed his brother being shot at close range by a German soldier as he ran into the cellar to fetch some milk powder for his baby son. Abe then set off alone to seek refuge in the Russian part of Poland, taking 6-8 weeks, always on the run from the Nazis, always cold and often starving. On arrival he joined the Russian Army mainly to get food and clothes but was not treated well. After the war he returned to Poland to find his family. However, they were all gone. Abe then made his way to Paris where he stayed until liberation.
Linda arrived at the Museum with copies of photos and documents relating to her research. It might not have been a South Australian story that we can use in our exhibition, but nonetheless it is still helpful and contributes to the resources we are building up for our educational program.
Linda shared not only family photographs but also her uncle’s memento from this time – a fascinating stereoscope with pictures of Parisian landmarks, along with Abe’s collection of banknotes, which show where he travelled across war torn Europe as he tried to escape.
Linda and her sisters remember Abe as a much-loved uncle and have since registered his story, or as much as they have discovered, in the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem.
Every Holocaust survivor’s experience is different and yet have common threads and we so appreciate Linda sharing with us his inspiring story.
Pauline would love to hear from anyone who has a Holocaust survivor within their family tree who made South Australia their home. The smallest detail can sometimes amount to the missing piece of the jigsaw. This is the challenging yet exuberant and addictive world of family history!