When Jewish survivors of the Holocaust arrived in Australia after World War II, they were filled with hope that they could build a new life. These survivors found themselves in a country not only blessedly far from the chaos of post-war Europe but also on the periphery of the political changes taking place in the West, such as the stirrings of a Cold War. Australia offered the peace so necessary to those who had been through unspeakable tragedy.
With their arrival, Australian Jewish communities would change dramatically. The survivors brought with them Yiddish, the lingua franca of East European Jewry, and their distinct European culture. A new era began as Jewish culture flourished and Jewish society developed in Australia.
Yet these survivors continued to live with their searing memories. They were appreciative of the sanctuary Australia offered, but their nightmares still haunted them. Many carried with them the scars of their traumatic experiences in the camps and in hiding from the Nazis. Some were unable to forge loving relationships with their children or spouses – whom they married to create a new family to replace those they may have lost – resulting in fraught family dynamics. Many were never fully free of the ghosts of their terrible suffering under German occupation.
Translated into English for the first time, these seven testimonies provide a window into the experiences of these survivors. Introduced by acclaimed Australian scholar Professor Paul Bartrop, Survival and Sanctuary is an exploration of the tension between hope and despair in the aftermath of war, and ultimately a demonstration of the power of the human will.