Discrimination and the Holocaust

This month on our social media pages we have been looking at discrimination and its impact on the Jewish community in the lead up and throughout the Holocaust.

To explore this theme, we have showcased items from our collection to help understand what discrimination is and how it contributed to the extermination of 6 million Jews across Europe.

From the Collection

Ernest Fuchs (1906- 1985)–later Fooks–was a prominent modernist architect who trained and worked in Vienna before migrating to Melbourne in 1939 to escape Nazism.

Ernest Fuchs letter to Professor Karl Brunner, 1932, from the MHM collection

This letter from our collection–a carbon copy dated 14 November 1932–was written by Ernest Fuchs to Professor Karl Brunner from the Vienna Technical University.

Fuchs, who was at the time completing his doctorate with a major in town planning at the university, wrote to Professor Brunner in response to being turned away from attending a lecture by two American town planners.

Fuchs questioned whether racial discrimination was at play, and if so, deemed the situation a disgrace. This incident occurred in Vienna before Hitler took power in Germany in 1933.

Antisemitic discrimination was prevalent in Austrian society during the early 1930s, and the growing support of Austrian-born Hitler and his hateful ideologies paved the way for Austria’s annexation in 1938.

Ernest Fuchs age 24 (front right) and fellow students at Vienna Technical University, 1930, from the MHM collection.

 

Holocaust survivor Irma Hanner speaks on discrimination

Irma Hanner is a Melbourne-based Holocaust survivor who was born in Dresden, Germany in 1930. Her testimony exists as one of over 1400 survivor testimonies within the MHM museum collection.

Irma recounts being subjected to state-ordered discrimination while living with her aunt in Nazi Germany at the ice cream parlour under her building:

 

“The man was Italian, and I used to always have ice cream there until one day he said ‘sorry but I can’t give you any more ice cream. I’m not allowed to sell to Jews ice cream.”

 

Watch Irma’s testimony: 

For Jews living throughout Europe, this kind of discrimination was a common theme and acted as a precursor to the Final Solution incited by the Nazis to eradicate European Jewry. Those living in Poland often describe the discriminatory measures taking place immediately following the Nazi invasion of their hometowns after the outbreak of war on 1 September 1939.

 

Educating about discrimination at MHM

As part of our popular education program delivered by MHM’s Education Department, school groups undertake practical sessions to encourage an in-depth understanding of Holocaust themes, using copies of artefacts from the collection as a learning aid.

Image I Irma Koch passport adorning red “J”, circa 1939, from the MHM collection.

 

Irma Koch used this passport to leave Austria with her husband Otto for America in 1939, just before the outbreak of World War II. In 1938, all Jewish passports became invalid, and the Reich Ministry of the Interior declared they would only become valid if stamped with a red “J.” Additionally, in 1939, all Jewish people with names of non-Jewish origin were required to add the name “Israel” for a male and “Sara” for a female to their given names.

Education Programs Manager Tracey Collie believes discrimination “is a key theme within the education program and using artefacts like this passport from the collection to demonstrate acts of discrimination helps to elicit thoughtful conversation with students about the lead up to the Holocaust.”

Stay tuned on our social media pages in October while we continue with our thematic series focusing on loss.