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Children of Holocaust Survivors Hold First Conclave in Australia

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The first Australian gathering of children and grand-children of Holocaust survivors opened here this week, with more than 100 participants from Australia and New Zealand.

The conference came as a result of informal discussions at the first National Gathering of Holocaust Survivors in 1985 and out of a growing awareness that there are many common problems and concerns among children of survivors that have been virtually ignored.

There are an estimated 20,000 descendants of Holocaust survivors in Australia’s 100,000-strong Jewish community.

Dr. George Foster, a Sydney psychiatrist who convened the conference, said that many descendants had been left with considerable emotional baggage and have been inhibited from forming stable relationships.

In many of their actions, these descendants of survivors have “a basic fear of inflicting more trauma on their parents.”

Opening the conference, a former government minister, Professor Peter Baume, told the gathering that “descendants of Holocaust survivors have a special duty to ensure the memory of the Holocaust is never erased.”

Clinical psychologist Amanda Gordon, who is a fifth-generation Australian Jew and a member of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, agreed that the memory of the Holocaust is significant to all humanity but observed that “some children of survivors have been imbued so powerfully with that responsibility that they are not able to get on with their lives.

“They remain children of survivors instead of children of the ’90s,” she said.

The gathering was mostly devoted to discussing ways in which descendants of Holocaust survivors approach personal relationships, particularly with their parents. The conference also included discussions of the history of the settlement of survivors and their descendants in Australia.

The gathering coincidentally opened at the same time as the government announced that the trial will resume next month of an Australian resident charged with crimes against humanity in connection with the murder of Jews during the Nazi occupation of the Ukraine.

Heinrich Wagner, 69, has had his petition for a permanent stay of his trial rejected. Lawyers in the case will travel to Ukraine to take evidence from witnesses unable to travel to Australia.

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