AS an eyewitness to Kristallnacht, it is timely that this year’s Jewish Holocaust Centre (JHC) commemoration of the 1938 Nazi pogrom will see communal stalwart Shmuel Rosenkranz (pictured), now 93, appointed inaugural life governor of the JHC.
The honour will be conferred on Rosenkranz at the Betty and Shmuel Rosenkranz Oration at the JHC on November 8. The oration is held annually to commemorate Kristallnacht.
Viennese-born Rosenkranz has vivid memories of November 9-10, 1938, when a Nazi onslaught on Jewish communities in Germany and Austria resulted in 91 immediate deaths, the incarceration of some 30,000 Jews in concentration camps and the burning of more than 1000 synagogues and 7000 Jewish businesses. As he and his father took shelter in the Vienna Woods, they watched the flames rising from the city’s torched synagogues.
In 2003, Rosenkranz told The AJN: “I still weep today for what I saw on that night … I saw the synagogues of Vienna go up in flames … I was fortunate to escape into the hills with my late father … We saw the skies lit with the fires of the synagogues.
“The following morning we walked the streets, we saw the broken glass, we saw the looted shops, saw holy books, Sifrei Torah, burned, vandalised, torn.”
Noting that he served as president and co-president of the JHC for 14 years, current co-president Pauline Rockman said the honour “marks his selfless dedication and commitment to the centre’s mission as an institution to preserve the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and to Holocaust education”.
After arriving in Melbourne in 1939, Rosenkranz was involved in founding Habonim and served for long periods as president of the Victorian Jewish Board of Deputies and Elwood shul. He took leadership roles with the Zionist Federation of Australia, the Zionist Council of Victoria and the Jewish Council to Combat Fascism and Anti-Semitism.
The oration will be delivered by Dr Avril Alba, lecturer in Holocaust studies and Jewish civilisation at the University of Sydney.
The oration is at the JHC in Elsternwick on Sunday, November 8 at 3pm.
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