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Posted Tuesday, August 25, 1998


August 24, 1998

Spielberg thanks Australians for sharing Holocaust stories


HOLLYWOOD filmmaker Steven Spielberg appeared in Sydney's new Central Synagogue last night with humble thanks to the Holocaust survivors who had told their story for his latest project.

"As survivors, you in Australia have so much courage and faith, you remind us what a precious gift life is," he said in a message conveyed by his own medium, film.

Spielberg, chairman of Survivors of the Shoah [Holocaust] Visual History Foundation, is seeking to document the experiences of all the survivors now living in 56 countries.

The novelist Thomas Keneally -- whose book about the German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who helped save Jews from the Nazis, inspired Spielberg to make Schindler's List -- was a guest of honour at an evening of tribute to Holocaust survivors.

"You told the world how just one man made a difference." the president of the Australian Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants, Ms Marika Weinberger, told Keneally.


It was through his book that Spielberg had made his film and established a foundation to tell she stories,

The sacred task of the survivors was to "warn the living that the unthinkable remains possible". she said.

"As neo-Nazism and the denial of the Holocaust becomes commonplace around the world and here in Australia, we see the beginnings of the fraying of the social fabric, the valuable work of the survivors becomes more important each day."

Keneally said the work of the foundation had thwarted the silence the Nazis had sought through genocide.

Spielberg's emissary from Los Angeles, Dr Michael Berenbaum, told a gathering of 1,400, mainly Holocaust survivors and their families, that of the 47,660 interviews conducted worldwide, 2,274 had been recorded in Australia.

There are altogether 100,000 hours of recorded testimony and the tape would literally circumnavigate the world.

Survivors had become refugees but now they were teachers of tolerance and the need to end bigotry, which was on the rise, including in Australia, said Dr Berenbaum. who is president of the foundation.

The foundation provided an opportunity to speak for the living and the dead, Ms Weinberger said. 

© Sydney Morning Herald 1998
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