ABSTRACT

On 18 February 2013, the Sydney Jewish Museum (SJM) Board endorsed An Obligation to Remember, a master plan that outlined the SJM’s major exhibition and education initiatives for the next ten years (Alba and X2 Design, 2013). On 3 March 2013, the Board reassembled for a workshop focused on a primary component of this plan, namely, the construction of a Holocaust and human rights centre to be housed at the SJM that would be the first centre of its kind in Australia. The decision to broaden the educational scope and reach of the SJM through establishing such a centre aligns with international trends, where explicit connections between Holocaust museums and associated ventures such as human rights and ‘tolerance’ museums are increasing in number (Moses 2012: 215-238).1 Globally, these initiatives are more often than not partially or fully state funded, and hence the decision to broaden an institution’s brief beyond the Holocaust is usually conceived as a way to make the historical information ‘relevant’ to the (mainly) non-Jewish public. Within the Australian context, however, such developments have been slow to eventuate and, where apparent, have not occurred as a result of significant changes in exhibition practices but rather, as has been the case with the SJM, through the creation of museum education programmes that have engaged comparative concepts to broaden the institution’s educational scope (Alba 2007: 151-172). From their inception, Australian Holocaust museums have always stood in

contrast to their international counterparts as privately founded, privately funded and survivor-driven institutions (Berman 2001). However, with the passing of the survivor generation, the current SJM Board largely comprises sons and daughters of Holocaust survivors, the so-called ‘second generation’. This generation has brought its own understandings of the utility of Holocaust history and memory to bear on institutional priorities and is currently harnessing these understandings to enact substantial change in line with international trends. This chapter charts significant junctures in the SJM’s institutional development not only to assess the impact of these ‘universalizing’ international developments on a historically ‘particularist’ Australian context, but also to

shed light on how intergenerational forces have generated and ultimately sanctioned such change. Utilizing and extending conceptual frameworks such as Marianne Hirsch’s ‘postmemory’ (1997; 2001; 2008) as well as Gary Weissman’s category of the ‘non-witness’ (2004) to illuminate the conceptual underpinnings of this very ‘concrete’ example, the chapter provides an alternate lens through which the dynamics of intergenerational transmission of the memory of genocide can be examined. While Hirsch posits that the ‘postmemory’ of the second generation dom-

inates intergenerational response to the Holocaust, Weissman challenges such a notion through delineating and exploring the category of the ‘non-witness’, a term which refers to those who have no first-hand, only received, knowledge of the Holocaust – including direct descendants. Weissman’s category of the ‘non-witness’ extends the imperative to ‘remember’ the genocide of European Jewry beyond the children or grandchildren of survivors and, in so doing, enlarges our understanding of both the content and scope of the intergenerational transmission of Holocaust memory. By exploring where and how personal, familial and intra-communal memories (postmemory) intersect with more public expressions of Holocaust memory (non-witness memory), the following case study opens up a space in which these diverse and often contradictory memories can be examined. For while the memory of genocide is often superficially (mis)understood as a unifying force, an investigation of the effects of intergenerational forces on more public forms of Holocaust memory illustrates that such an outcome cannot be assumed. Indeed, in light of the multiplicity of meanings currently attributed to Holocaust memory, the chapter concludes by questioning the efficacy of the intergenerational transmission of this memory in the Australian public sphere and beyond.