(Transcript from World News Radio)
It’s been 70 years since detainees were released from the Auschwitz concentration camp, in Poland.
In its brief five years in existence, the Nazi camp was the last home of more than 1.1 million men, women and children who were gassed, shot, tortured and starved to death.
Those fortunate to survive the genocide were scarred by trauma, and that trauma has trickled down through the generations.
Phillippa Carisbrooke takes a look at the legacy of the Holocaust for one Australian family.
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Eva Slonim was 13 years old when she and her younger sister Marta were imprisoned at Auschwitz.
Mistaken for twins, they were subjected to horrific medical experiments.
Eva’s forearm still bears the number the Nazis used to identify prisoners.
The tattoo has faded … but memories of her imprisonment have not.
“It’s with me every day of my life. And I tried to conceal it so that my children and family would not not suffer from my feelings and my hurt.”
A photo taken at the liberation of Auschwitz captures the two sisters.
“That’s me. And that’s Marta.”
The pair stand among other child detainees, behind barbed wire and mesh fencing.
Eva didn’t recognise herself when shown the image.
The sisters were among some 35,000 Jews who migrated to Australia from Europe after the war.
Eva married an Australian-born Jew and the couple had five children.
Daniel Slonim used to think his mother’s past didn’t greatly affect him and that her efforts to shield her children from the horror had been successful.
“She would sit on the back porch and tell us stories. But she wouldn’t make us fearful. She would tell us stories like a storyteller and occasionally with humour so as not to frighten us.”
But the father of three has come to realise there’s a legacy associated with losing loved ones.
“I have terrible separation anxiety whenever my children go away. Even on short holidays I have trouble saying goodbye. When I leave for work in the morning, saying goodbye and walking out the door is a ceremony.’
Eva’s grandson, Ronen, suffered nightmares after first learning about the Holocaust at school.
Later he felt the need to quiz his grandmother about her past.
“I used to come to come every Saturday morning to my grandmother after prayers and ask her about her experiences during the Holocaust. It’s always been something on my mind. I read books on it all the time. So it’s something that I’ve been obsessed with.”
The 21-year old is troubled by the senselessness of the Holocaust, and it affects reports he hears about abuse today.
“Current affairs. For some reason, I think it’s due to the Holocaust and what my grandmother went through, when there are injustices in the world it just really hits me hard.”
Eva’s parents died without ever speaking to her about her imprisonment.
She struggled to talk to her own children about it.
She finds speaking with her grandchildren easier and is keen they learn from her experience.
“Protect themselves. Be aware. And also not to be vengeful. Just to learn a lesson.”
But the Melbourne grandmother’s family says she has had her revenge in creating a big family – one the Nazis so cruelly tried to deny her.