Year 11 Modern History Excursion

On Wednesday the 12th of June, the Year 11 Modern History students visited the Sydney Jewish Museum as part of our current unit ‘Contestability of the Past’. The excursion was incredibly gripping and allowed us to deepen our understanding of World War Two and the Holocaust, and how these events continue to impact people in contemporary society.

We were lucky enough to meet a Hungarian Holocaust survivor named Peter. He shared his story with us, explaining how, at the age of four, he and his mother hid in a bunker for a year in order to evade the Nazis whilst his father was sent to and escaped from a concentration camp. He had told the incredible story of his survival and how this had led him to escape to Austria and eventually Australia, following the war. We had the rare opportunity to ask Peter questions regarding his experience during the war and his life now. It was such a unique experience to speak to a Holocaust survivor, hearing a personal account truly enriched our understanding of that time in history, and was especially valuable considering we are the last generation who will be enabled this opportunity.

We were then given a guided tour of the museum where we able to view the photos, journals and personal belongings of the Holocaust victims.  The walls of the museum were engraved with the names of the victims, whilst the architecture within the museum was designed to replicate the Star of David. It was later explained that the star was designed to appear fragmented as it was intended to demonstrate how the Holocaust shattered the Jewish population and religion. We had developed an empathetic connection to the survivors and the atrocities they had experienced.

Over the last term we have been learning about Leni Riefenstahl, a controversial filmmaker for Hitler, and while at the museum we attended an insightful and passionate lecture by Dr. Ari Lander. We considered the perspective that Leni was a Nazi supporter who knowingly created propaganda that aided in legitimising Nazism and the holocaust, and the alternate view that she was a passionate artist and filmmaker who used the Nazi Party as an opportunity to create films, an uncommon feat for women in her time. This lecture aided in fueling debate in our class surrounding Riefenstahl’s controversy.

It was an amazing excursion that demonstrated an excellent example of a respectful display, aiding in the commemoration and education of the Holocaust.

Sophie Gallagher, Lingge Bai and Lara Ball – Year 11 Modern History