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Holocaust survivors relive painful memories -

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Holocaust survivors relive painful memories

Reporter: Geoff Hutchison

KERRY O'BRIEN: Still on war. For those who lived through the nightmare of Hitler's death camps,
this year's 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe has rekindled painful memories.
We're familiar with the wild celebrations that marked VE Day, but what did liberation really mean
for those freed when the concentration camp gates were flung open? What awaited those wanting to
return to their old homes and how did they go about rebuilding their lives? In Melbourne, home to
8,000 holocaust survivors, those questions are being asked in an exhibition, Bittersweet Freedom.
Geoff Hutchison reports.

NEWSREEL: A wave of horror swept across the civilised world when the armies of liberation reached
the gates of Belsen, Auschwitz, Dachau.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: On January 27, 1945, the Soviet army liberated survivors at the Nazi death camp,
Auschwitz, in Poland.

NEWSREEL: And as they advanced, they tore aside veils that had shielded the worst of Hitler's
infamies from outside eyes.

STEPHANIE HELLER: Our feeling was, they kind, a kind of happiness that we can go out and see the
grass, see the flowers, see the houses and blue sky, and we were very joyful.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: But for Stephanie Heller, a survivor of Auschwitz, the reality of liberation was
very different when she learnt there was no family to go home to.

STEPHANIE HELLER: My husband, my little sister and my parents didn't come back. I'm the only one
with my twin sister who survived. When we realised that we are alone, the joy of being liberated
wasn't fulfilled really. We knew that there is still the shadow of the past over us.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: On the 60th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe, this has been a year of
commemoration and reflection. Be it world leaders lighting candles at Auschwitz, be it holocaust
survivors thousands of kilometres away in Melbourne. But what did liberation really represent?
Defence Force Chief General Peter Cosgrove has just opened an exhibition which seeks to explore a
bitter sweet freedom.

GENERAL PETER COSGROVE, AUSTRALIAN DEFENCE FORCE CHIEF: It's our duty to ensure that their awful
stories of loss and agony and their incredible stories of courage and hope and survival continue to
be commemorated and honoured. This is a lasting debt that we owe to those that suffered and
sacrificed.

ABRAM GOLDBERG: It bought freedom in a physical sense, but otherwise, I didn't have any illusion
that freedom meant, for me, to end the whole night with my family. I knew my family was completely
annihilated, destroyed.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: For Maria Lewitt, liberation by Soviet troops in Poland enabled her to emerge from
two years of hiding. But freedom would not guarantee safety from old hatreds.

MARIA LEWITT: The first group of Polish people we met, I said something like this: "Have a look,
half an hour ago, rations came and here you have our Jew boys back again." I don't have to tell you
how much it hurt that all of a sudden this euphoria, we are free, and bang, you know.

SCHOOL BOY (AT EXHIBITION): Do you hate the Germans?

ABRAM GOLDBERG: No, no, just the opposite. We don't hate. In this museum, you will never hear us
utter a word of hate. Just the opposite. We always speak about tolerance from one human being to
another because I witnessed too much hatred and I knew if I will hate, I will destroy myself as a
human being.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: Eighty-year-old Abie Goldberg spends much of his week as a tour guide at the
Holocaust Museum, retelling a survivor's story that for these year eight students seems both
nightmarish and compelling. Sixty years on, Abie Goldberg says he will never be truly liberated
from his sense of loss and betrayal, but Australia gave him the chance to rebuild his life and to
bear witness as a living exhibit.

ABRAM GOLDBERG: And when we were given the occasion to emigrate to Australia, we grabbed it with
both hand, and because we knew Australia is far away from Europe, and it's a free country, a
democratic country where I will not have to look over my shoulder.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: Stephanie Heller was a Mengler twin, with her sister part of Dr Joseph Mengler's
grotesque medical experimentation at Auschwitz.

STEPHANIE HELLER (TALKING TO STUDENTS AT EXHIBITION): So, we had to take the corpses and heap them
on a truck.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: For many years, she could not speak about her ordeal, but now she too tells her
story to a new generation.

STEPHANIE HELLER: I always tell the students, you have to remember tolerance is the best, and
religion, there is the best religion, there are many religions, but the best religion is to be a
good human being.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: For those who survived the Holocaust memories of liberation are indeed bitter
sweet and anniversaries like this create a special ache. At this Melbourne cemetery, a new monument
containing ashes from Auschwitz has just been dedicated, to remember the unknown dead and to give
mourners a focus for their prayers. Proof perhaps that while the passage of time may not always
heal, it can soothe.

MARIA LEWITT: I am glad that I don't hate. I am glad that my children don't hate. That I were
brought up in the house when hate was an unknown word.

ABRAM GOLDBERG: Here is my victory because in my case, as a third generation, and since I call it
my victory.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Memories like that just don't die. Geoff Hutchison with that report.