September 6, 2018
Not all Holocaust survivors can stand up and tell their story to adult and student groups. There are many survivors who are not necessarily the well-known faces of the Sydney Jewish Museum, and whose stories of horror and hope remain unspoken.
However, the testimony of all survivors hold equal importance in helping us understand the experiences of the Holocaust and the historical timeline from pre-war life, Hitler’s rise to power, living under National Socialist policy, through to migration to Australia.
The Museum’s curators have the coveted role of preserving and conserving the objects, remnants, documents and photographs that support and provide complexity to stories of the Holocaust survivors and their families. The thousands of objects in the Museum’s archive are crucial to the continual development of the Museum’s historical narrative. These objects provide a launch pad for further inquiry into genocide, individual experience and the nuances of the unique Australian Jewish community.
The Museum recently received a collection of around 40 items belonging to Hungarian survivor Eva Soschko. Eva shared her testimony as part of the Visual History Archive project in July, 1995 and has now donated the most telling remnants of her life before, during and after World War II.
Eva Soschko (nee Horvat) was born in Miskloc, Hungary; an only child, to Alexander and Elizabeth Horvat. In 1944, when Eva was around 20 years old, her father was interned and subsequently died of illness in Buchenwald. Eva and her mother were placed on a cattle train to Komárom, and soon after to Auschwitz-Birkenau. After a period, they were transported again to Krakow-Plaszow and forced into manual labour. Eva and her mother were eventually taken back to Auschwitz, tattooed and deported to Ausburg. Shortly after, they were relocated to an outer camp of Dachau-Muhldorf. Rumours spread about the imminent outcome of the war and the women were loaded on cattle trucks again; they were moved around without destination. It was later revealed that the SS officer intended to spare them by avoiding the camps. They were eventually intercepted by the Red Cross and then by American tanks.
Eva and her mother were taken to Feldafing Displaced Persons camp. It was here that Eva met her future husband, Konstantin Soschko. Konstantin was a Polish gentile, imprisoned in Dachau from 1942 until liberation. The couple were married in Feldafing after a 6 week courtship, and returned to Hungary with Elizabeth. In 1946 Eva gave birth to Marianna and in 1951 the family of three moved to Australia.
Eva’s harrowing story of survival provides a personal perspective on the extent of the Nazi persecution and conflict in Europe during World War II. Her testimony alongside her memorabilia gives voice to a 20-something year-old woman, navigating the cusp of childhood into adulthood amidst traumatic circumstances.
This collection takes its place within the Museum collection. Eva’s collection enriches the Museum’s narrative and helps to expand our ever evolving knowledge of the Holocaust. In this way, we strive to preserve the voices of our survivors and remember those who were murdered.
Author: Rachel Mensforth, Curator
Image left: Identity card issued to Eva Soschko by the camp of Felfading Leadership, 18 August 1945. SJM Collection. Right: Photograph of Eva Soschko with her daughter Marianna, taken aboard the passenger ship the Hellenic Prince,1951. SJM Collection.