Everybody Had a Name project: eternalising those murdered and those who survived in our memorial room

Images I Holocaust victims Szymon Siedlecki, Olga Nussbaum, and Guta Ruda. From the MHM Collection.


The newly redeveloped Melbourne Holocaust Museum (MHM) will open its doors in mid-2023. We are proud to have served the public for almost 40 years, not only as a museum but as a dedicated memorial site for Victorian families with a connection to the Holocaust.

With this in mind, we are excited to have recently launched our Everybody Had a Name project, created to establish a digital memorial for the community to honour their loved ones by eternalising their names for future generations.

For families, the digital memorial will provide the opportunity to honour both those who survived and those who were murdered during the Holocaust.



Where will the digital memorial be displayed?


Floor plan of the first floor at the Melbourne Holocaust Museum incorporating the memorial room. Courtesy of Kerstin Thompson Architects.

With the reconstruction of our new building, we are establishing a new memorial room, designed by Architect Stephen Jolson, to house our digital memorial as well as physical memorial stars.


The design and our time associated with the development and documentation of this memorial space is my gift to this centre, in honour of my grandparents who not only survived the atrocities of the Holocaust, but also had the strength to talk about their experiences and indelibly pass on their legacy through me. Our creative and theoretical response has been nurtured by the generational and emotional buffer I was fortunate to have been given from the actual event, – Stephen Jolson, Jolson Architects.

The information provided by the public will also be stored in our Victorian Registry of Holocaust survivors, for research and preservation purposes. This registry will act as a database to help preserve the legacy of Victorian-based Holocaust survivors and their descendants.



Honouring a loved one with a physical tribute

For those wishing to have a physical tribute to their loved one within the memorial room, memorial-star plaques are available by way of donation.

Each memorial star will display one name, or one family name, to emphasise the importance of each individual life that was affected by the Holocaust. Everybody had a name, a family, a life, and their own unique experiences; we hope to honour this within our memorial room.

Images | A transitional space that passes through the building to celebrate lightness that emerges from the darkness with a symbol of hope | A maquette of the memorial room Jolson designed by Jolson Architecture. Courtesy of Jolson Architecture.

Principal Architect Stephen Jolson designed the memorial plaques with the significance of the name as the project’s central focus.

With a clear brief from the MHM Board to “Remember the VICTIMS…use our plaques,” Jolson instinctively gravitated towards the Star of David as a culturally relevant medium:


A single solid bronze star will be used as a remembrance plaque to commemorate each family, or family member, dedicated by the survivors and or their families that defied their perpetrators and were afforded life in a new country, safe from atrocity. 

Adjacent to these bronze plaques, we will pin thousands of grey-scaled aluminium stars. The sea of grey-scaled stars become the apparitions, figments, outlines of those who did not survive the hellfire.


When asked why the name became a pillar of the memorial space, Jolson posited:


In memorialising individual victims and survivors, we seek to proclaim that the Jews can never be labelled collectively again. Each emblem which was sewn onto clothing, stitched into their identity, is taken from the human figure, and enshrined onto the walls to reclaim the fact that these are individual people, with names and families, from real communities.

The significance of the name in Jewish culture 

A person’s name holds great significance in Jewish culture. Some even understand the name to be prophetic, suggesting that parents can see their child’s innermost nature.

The Hebrew word for ‘name’ – ‘shem’ – has the numerical value of 340, the same as ‘sefer’ or ‘book.’ Therefore, some suggest that perhaps a name tells the story of the individual it is attributed to, capturing their spirit and carrying insights into their soul.

If a person is fatally ill, some have the custom of changing their name to alter their fate. As the Talmud says, in Tractate Berakhot, a change of name is a change of fortune. Adding the middle name “Chaim” – Hebrew for “life” – is believed to grant them the fortitude to survive and is an example of the unwavering faith in the name’s prophetic power.


We are providing the community the opportunity to honour their loved ones in our digital memorial at no cost.

 Anyone wishing to honour their loved ones with a physical memorial star by donation, please visit our memorial page for more information or enquire at donate@mhm.org.au.