No one knows who owned the shoe, the hairbrush or the make-up compact. They were found in Auschwitz at the end of the war, when the world was only beginning to understand the horrors that unfolded in Hitler’s concentration camps.
But in their ordinariness, they tell the story of an extraordinary period of human history, and one that the Sydney Jewish Museum wants the next generation of history scholars to understand.
The museum has borrowed 12 new artefacts from Auschwitz, adding to its existing collection of Holocaust objects. They will be on display for five years, and curators are hoping students will see them as part of its ongoing mission to educate young Australians about the Holocaust.
Rebecca Kummerfield, head of education at the museum, said that education is fundamentally about “communicat[ing] the collection. It is a way to talk about these issues and create historical empathy.”
Students in years 9 and 10 must study Holocaust modules in history. They can continue their studies if they choose Modern History for the HSC. When students visit, they learn the stories behind the artefacts and meet a Holocaust survivor.
Dr Kummerfield said the meeting was the most powerful experience for students. “Meeting a Holocaust survivor, especially at this moment in time where we’re not going to have that opportunity for much longer … I think the gravity of that really hits students.”