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On an ordinary suburban street: a brief history of Melbourne's Jewish Holocaust Centre

journal contribution
posted on 2015-11-01, 00:00 authored by Steven CookeSteven Cooke, Donna-Lee FriezeDonna-Lee Frieze
The Jewish Holocaust Centre (JHC) in Melbourne Australia, set well away from the sites of European atrocity, became one of the first permanent museums dedicated to the Holocaust in the Jewish Diaspora when it opened in March 1984. It was the response to the imminent passing of the survivor generation.
You can enter this past from the present through an ordinary, nondescript door, opening from a suburban street. You walk up a short flight of carpeted stairs, as you might in your own house, but there waiting for you is something other than the faces of your children or parents. (Harry Redner).
Upstairs in Leo Fink House, the original location for Melbourne's first permanent Holocaust exhibition, where thousands of school students now listen each year to the testimonies of Melbourne's dwindling number of Holocaust survivors, an unremarkable white door shows the original entrance. Before the changes to the location of the exhibition, and the building of the Hadasa and Szymon Rosenbaum Research Centre, the first visitors to the museum would have entered Leo Fink House from the street through Redner's 'nondescript door', past a brass plaque with words in English, Yiddish and Hebrew, and would have climbed the stairs to enter through a white door to view the intimate exhibition.
These traces of the former configuration of the JHC reveal changes to the institution as it responded to different priorities, opportunities and a growth in visitor numbers during its 30-year history. The concept of biography helps us think through these changes, but also points to a longer historical focus.



Journal of the Australian Jewish Historical Society






548 - 568


Australian Jewish Historical Society







Publication classification

C Journal article; C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2015, The Authors

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