HOLOCAUST educators Sue Hampel and Frances Prince have each been honoured with a Henryk Slawik Award from the Australian Society of Polish Jews and their Descendants.
The recipients, who founded March of the Living (MOTL), were presented with their award citing “their outstanding contribution, both in Australia and Poland, to fostering understanding, respect and strong ties between Jewish and non-Jewish Poles”.
Accepting their awards last week at the Jewish Holocaust Centre (JHC), the pair related how MOTL began in 2002 as an Australian Jewish pilgrimage to Jewish Poland and developed from there.
Prince said the goal of MOTL was to show young Australian Jews a side of Poland that was not merely “a Jewish graveyard” – and that initiatives were developed, such as visiting Polish high schools and cooperative work between Jews and local Poles to maintain Jewish cemeteries.
JHC’s Pauline Rockman, in a tribute to Hampel, her co-president, recalled that the idea of MOTL at first seemed strange. “Not many people from Melbourne went to Poland in those days” and these trips were considered to be “bold and adventurous”.
Katerina Kolt, paying tribute to Prince, said the Mount Scopus College educator and University of Melbourne academic, who was involved in the Building Bridges interfaith program, brought her expertise in these fields to MOTL.
Victorian MP Natalie Suleyman, representing the state government, noted that one third of Polish Australians call Victoria home and that the Polish and Polish-Jewish communities of Victoria have made a valuable contribution to life in Melbourne and Victoria. “Our government thanks you,” she said.
The awards were created to honour the memory of Henryk Slawik, a Polish politician, activist, and diplomat, who during World War II helped save more than 30,000 Polish refugees, including 5000 Polish Jews in Hungary by giving them false Polish passports with Catholic designations.
He was executed by the Nazis in August 1944.