Saturday, October 10, 2015
A little girl was born in Poland in 1927 in the city of Boryslaw. Her name was Sabina Wolanski and her childhood was uneventful until the age of 11 when the Nazis took over the city. Despite horrors and the loss of her family, the young girl survived, making a new life for herself in Australia. In 1967 she gave evidence against the man who had killed her father and brother.
In 2005 Germany opened a memorial in Berlin to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Called the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, it consists of a 19,000m2 site upon which 2,711 concrete slabs (known as “stelae”) have been constructed, arranged in rows and of varying heights. An underground information centre documents the persecution and extermination of European Jewry and records the names of the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
According to designer and architect Peter Eisenmann, the stelae are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason. Others have noted the memorial's resemblance to a cemetery.
(Controversy was caused when in 2003 it was revealed that Degussa, the company making the anti-graffiti substance painted onto the stelae had been involved in various ways in the Nazi persecution of the Jews and that a Degussa subsidiary, Degesch, had produced the Zyklon B gas used in the Nazi gas chambers).
The memorial was dedicated on 10 May 2005, 60 years after the end of World War 11.
Amongst the various speakers and dignitaries was Sabina Wolanski, chosen to represent the murdered Jews of Europe.
Her speech is worth reading and it appears below, In today’s climate of religious intolerance, cultural conflicts, warfare, civil unrest and a dearth of charity, it still has relevance and resonance.
Speech by the Holocaust survivor Sabina van der Linden, née Haberman, at the inaugiration of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Chairman of Yad Vashem,
my dear Holocaust-survivors,
Ladies and Gentlemen!
Not even in my wildest dreams could I have dreamed of this extraordinary day. Here, in this very place, after many years of controversies, public disputes, debates that have taken place and the Bundestag Resolution of the 25 June 1999 the vision of Lea Rosh and the people around her has come true. And today I am standing here before you at the inauguration of this magnificent Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and I thank you for it. I am humbled by the honor bestowed on me and overwhelmed by the responsibility. For I am the voice of the six million tortured and murdered Jews of which one and a half million were children and I am also the voice of the lucky few – the voice of survivors.
I am the only one of my whole family who survived. I am a witness to the unbearable crimes against the humanity. Try not to see the elderly woman standing before you, but an 11 year old girl from Boryslaw, a small town in former Poland. The date is the 1 July 1941, a significant date – the German army occupies our town. Three days later: a pogrom lasting two days, the first taste of what our life was going to be under the rule of Nazi Germany. German authorities have given a "free hand" to the Ukrainian and Poles who attacked their unprotected Jewish neighbours. I, an 11 year old child, witness indescribable cruelty, murders, rape and torture. Bewilderment, total incomprehension – why? Why is this happening? How can people, ordinary people be so heartless and cruel? Why is it happening to us? We did not do anything wrong. Weeks pass. I have to wear an armband with the Jewish star, why? I am not allowed to keep my bellowed dog and cat, why? My friends are not allowed to play with me anymore; I am not allowed to go to school, why?
The time passes and the killings and deportations continue. The despair, degradations, hunger, humiliations – and still desperately trying to cling to the last shreds of dignity, This has become our daily life. On the 6 August  an “Aktion”* lasting three days begins. My mother and I are in hiding, but our place is discovered and we are taken to a place where a selection is made. I am hanging desperately to my mother’s hand but I am brutally separated from her and taken out to work to a different place from where I am released after a few days. I never see my mother again. It was not after many months later that the rumors reached us about the Belzec death camp, and this is where she an the five thousand other Jewish victims from the same transport were put to death by gassing.
And again the daily life, if one could call it life, devoid of any hope continued. From "Aktion" to "Aktion", trying to hide, building bunkers in the forest, escaping deportation – the struggle to survive, the mean desperate struggle. And the fear, paralyzing fear …
My father and my brother Joseph were looking for a safe haven for me. So they approached some of our Christian friends asking if they would shelter me. And those descent, brave people have taken me into their home risking their own lives, because hiding a Jew was punishable by death. And so I lived controlling my emotions, hiding my identity, in constant fear of discovery. And when it became too dangerous for our friends to protect me any longer my brother took me to the bunker in the forest which he and his friend have built. Whilst I was hiding in the forest, my father, my brother and my brother’s best friend were in the labor camp. They tried to escape but they were caught and as a warning to other Jews who were still in the camp they were killed on the order of the inspector of the camp. It was in the morning on the 19 July 1944. Seventeen days later, on the 6th of August, the Soviet Army liberated our small town Boryslaw.
It happened such a long time ago, 60 years ago. Memories fade slightly but are never forgotten. And what are my thoughts and my feelings as I stand here before you gazing at my family, my son and daughter, their partners, my grandchildren and my husband who all traveled from far away Australia to be with me, to protect me with their love and support? What have I learned from my bitter experience? I have learned that hatred begets hatred. I have learned that we must not remain silent and that each of us as an individual must fight the evil of racism, discrimination, prejudice, inhumanity. I have repeatedly said that I do not believe in the collective guilt. And if I may paraphrase the great writer and an exceptional man Elie Wiesel: "The children of the killers are not killers. We must never blame them for what their elders did. But we can hold them responsible for what they do with the memory of their elder’s crime."
It has been the lot of out people to confront the worst manifestation of evil in the human history, and yet our oppressors have perished and we have survived.
And from this perspective we face out future, confident in the ultimate triumph of the human spirit over brute force. A victory not only for Jewish people but a victory of all decent people over evil.
Ladies and gentleman, thank you.
* Aktion: term used for any non-military campaign to further Nazi ideals of race, but most often referred to the assembly and deportation of Jews to concentration or death camps.
Sabina Wolanski passed away in Sydney in 2011, aged 84 years.
Sabina van der Linden-Wolanski before her family history in the Room of Families in the Information Centre, in 2010
Friday, October 9, 2015
Yep, Fridays are flying fast and it will be Christmas sooner than you think.
So if it's Friday, it's also time for some Friday mirth. Unable to come up with a theme, "laziness" came to mind . . .
"So you're able to carry shopping to a customer's car free of charge?" I asked the guy in Tesco this morning.
"Yes," he replied.
I said, "Can you carry mine for me?"
He said, "Sure."
As we walked across the entire distance of the car park, I stopped beside my car and said, "I could've carried it myself but I'm a lazy bastard."
"I gathered that," he replied, "Here's your Kit Kat."
I said to my wife this morning, "I was just reading in a scientific paper now, that blades of grass can actually feel pain. Amazing isn't it?"
"Nice try dickhead. The lawnmower's in the shed."
Instead of John, I call my bathroom Jim, that way it sounds better when I say I went to the Jim first thing this morning.
I'm sick of everyone calling me lazy, so I've decided I'm going to commit suicide.
I've hired a hitman for the job.
The missus reckons I'm lazy and that I can't be bothered to finish anyth
I went to my next door neighbour's BBQ today.
"Did you bring any beer?" he asked.
"No," I replied, "I was chilling out indoors and I couldn't be bothered to walk to the shop."
"You must be the laziest bastard in the world," he said.
"Yeah, the taxi driver just told me the same thing."
I'm feeling lazier than the bloke who designed the Japanese flag.
Thursday, October 8, 2015
Sea otters can live their entire lives without leaving the water. They have the thickest fur of any mammal, as much as 1,000,000 hairs per square inch, and it is considered one of the most valuable types of fur in the world. Due to extensive hunting for their fur between 1741 and 1911, they are classified as an endangered species, over 1 million sea otters having been killed during the maritime fur trade. Protection and conservation laws saw the numbers rebound during the 20th century. Currently, the most significant threat to sea otters are oil spills.
Otters love eating sea urchins and are one of the few mammals to use tools, namely rocks to crush sea urchin shells.
Sea otters frequently hold hands when sleeping so that they won’t drift away from each other.
Circumcision for members of the royal family in England dates back to King George I, who introduced the custom. Queen Victoria traced the British royal family’s tree back to ancient Israel’s King David, and insisted that her sons be circumcised along the lines of Jewish tradition, which calls for foreskin to be snipped on the eighth day after birth. Edward VII, the Duke of Windsor and Prince Charles were all snipped. Princess Diana said no for her sons and put an end to it. It is not known whether William has reinstated, or will reinstate, the tradition.
Three of Prince Philip’s four sisters – Margarita, Cecile and Sophie – married German aristocrats who became leading figures in the Nazi party.
Prince Philip, circled, pictured with relatives wearing Nazi uniforms at his sister Cecile's funeral in Germany in 1937. She had been killed in an air crash. Note the Nazi salutes of the crowd.
Prince Philip’s youngest sister Sophie – elegantly dressed with a fur hanging on the back of her chair – sitting opposite Hitler at the wedding of Luftwaffe commander Hermann Goering (with gold braid) and his bride Emmy, 1935.
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Demolition work near the corner of Castlereagh and Goulburn streets, construction of the Sydney underground railway, 14 December 1916.
"Boys swimming in water hole behind the conservatorium." Sydney Morning Herald photo c 1920s. The 'water hole' is actually the cutting for the City Circle railway line.
Pedestrians and tram on George St,Sydney in c1910
Sir Edmund Barton (1849-1920), Australia’s first Prime Minister
Prime Minister Menzies launches Australia's first nuclear reactor, 1958
Market Street, Sydney 1910
Petrol Bowsers Bent Street, Sydney c 1928
Queen Victoria Building c 1900
Taking strain measurements on post - Sydney Harbour Bridge NSW Australia 1932
Banjo Paterson with wife Alice and daughter Grace, ca. 1900-1912, by Lionel Lindsay
. . . and some that aren't old buildings . . .
Swimsuit competition, Paris, 1949