Survivor portraits on show at AWM
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Survivor portraits on show at AWM

Photographic portraits of six Australian Holocaust survivors have been purchased by the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, with four featuring in an exhibition to be launched on October 11.

Harry Borden’s portrait of Maria Lewit.
Harry Borden’s portrait of Maria Lewit.

PHOTOGRAPHIC portraits of six Australian Holocaust survivors have been purchased by the Australian War Memorial (AWM) in Canberra, with four featuring in an exhibition to be launched on October 11.

The portraits were captured by British photographer Harry Borden for his 2017 book, Survivor: A Portrait of the Survivors of the Holocaust, in which he photographed 105 survivors from Australia, Israel, the US and UK.

Magda Keaney, a senior curator at the AWM, told The AJN, “We are absolutely delighted to have Harry’s very powerful and important photographs in our collection.”

The six portraits are of Cesia Altstock, Mayer Braitberg, Sam Goodchild, Maria Lewit, Jadzia Opat and Sarah Saaroni. Only Lewit and Saaroni are still alive.

Borden turned his focus to Shoah survivors after his Jewish father told him that although he is not halachically Jewish himself, he too would have perished.

In 2008, he began photographing Australian survivors, crediting coverage in The AJN with helping him find his subjects.

AWM acquired the portraits after discovering around a quarter of the subjects were Australian.

“It’s a great honour for me personally to have my work in a major public institution, but paramount is that the acquisition honours my remarkable subjects,” Borden told The AJN.

Lewit, born in Poland in 1924, survived the war hiding in a makeshift cellar. She immigrated to Australia in 1948. Studying English and becoming a writer, when she received an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 2011, she was thrilled at the honour, being “this migrant who doesn’t know how to speak English very well”.

Polish-born Saaroni, 92, was sent to Majdanek, but escaped on the way. After a time in pre- state Palestine, she migrated to Australia in 1955. She became a sculptor and wrote about her survival.

Awarded an OAM in 2015, she said, “It’s nice to live in a country where people are judged by what they do, not who they are.”

PETER KOHN

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