LUNCHEON - 7TH MAY 2014
Speaker: Dr Margaret Taft
Topic: "From Holocaust to Witness"
Chairperson: Philip Mayers
Following an extensive career in education Dr Margaret Taft is now a Research Fellow at the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilization at Monash University. Her doctoral thesis in early Holocaust testimony was nominated for the prestigious Mollie Holman Medal for outstanding research. She is author of From Victim to Survivor: The Emergence and Development of the Holocaust Witness 1941-1949 (published by Vallentine Mitchell in the UK).
As the youngest child of Holocaust survivors who immigrated to Australia in 1951, Margaret grew up in a community of immigrant survivors. She experienced first-hand what it was like to grow up in the shadow of the Holocaust, the painful silences, the unanswerable questions and the enduring stories of survival against the odds.
Margaret is currently researching a social history of Jewish immigration to Australia. She has also been a tour leader and educator for ‘March of the Living’ in Poland (a unique program that honours, commemorates and explores the past, present, and future of the Jewish people) as well as a volunteer lecturer with the Holocaust Museum in Melbourne.
She is married to Jonathan and has two adult children and an adorable grandson!
Synopsis Of The Lunch:
Our guest speaker, Dr Margaret Taft is the youngest child of Holocaust survivors who immigrated to Australia in 1951 growing up in a community of immigrant survivors. Following an extensive career in education she is now a Research Fellow at the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation at Monash University.
Each person probably has a different interpretation of the Holocaust, but Margaret’s research explores a subsequent stage - the transition from Victim to Survivor. She said that we live in an age of Testimony; what one historian called the ‘era of the witness’. Survival was of critical importance to the survivors themselves. They had to find meaning in life in a post Holocaust world.
The current era now encourages victims of all sorts of trauma to come forward and speak publicly of their pain and suffering to audiences who engage with victims, and seek out their narratives. One estimate alone puts it at over 100,000 testimonies collected worldwide in the past 25 years, and Holocaust survivors have been publicly empowered to give testimony because of a conducive social and cultural environment. By doing so, they fulfil the sacred commandment ‘to remember’ and the Jewish obligation to bear witness.
In this way, Survivors could validate their own experiences, move forward with surety and purpose, rebuild their lives, and reconstruct their shattered communities - wherever they would find themselves.