Auschwitz-Birkenau: University of Life: To Be or Not To Be
About this book
Josef Hellen was 15 in August 1942, when police walked into his Czech classroom and ordered five boys to come with them. He never saw his family again. Josef ended up in the Canada (‘Land of Plenty’) Commando in Auschwitz, where belongings brought by Jews were sorted and sent back to Germany.
Canada was right beside the gas chambers and the workers witnessed tens of thousands walking to their deaths.
Josef escaped from a death march and made his way to Hungary, where he met his wife, whose story is also told here. In Australia, Josef worked to gather capital to construct 100 brick, three-bedroom milk bars in Melbourne, before building a property empire in the USA.
Caulfield South VIC: Makor at Lamm Jewish Community Library
Josef Hellen was born in Hodonin, Czechoslovakia in 1926. He had an older brother and two younger sisters. The Hellen Wing of the Emmy Monash Homes and the Evelyn Hellen Library at Bialik College honour his daughter, who died of leukaemia at 17. His son and daughter both work for the family company. He has two granddaughters.
Josef believed strongly in the importance of Holocaust remembrance and education. He recorded his testimony and wrote his life story, University of Life: To Be or Not To Be. A very generous benefactor to many causes in Australia and overseas, including a gift to the Melbourne Holocaust Museum redevelopment, he died at the age of 93.