When Pauline Rockman read a job advertisement in The AJN for interviewers in 1994 it was the start of a long and dedicated association with the Melbourne Holocaust Museum (MHM).
The late Phillip Maisel was looking for people to interview Holocaust survivors and Rockman, a trained psychologist, was looking for something else. “I thought that’s what I’m interested in, so I started interviewing,” she said. Her father was a survivor of Nazi Germany who told her nothing happened to them, they were the lucky ones, so go ahead with the interviews.
She went on and completed the admission educator program. “And I came back, ready to do more because there were just so many people wanting to start telling their stories and I just found it fascinating listening to the stories. Recording the stories for me was empowering.”
In 1999 she was the first woman to join the museum’s board. Her listening and recording prowess saw Rockman join the USC Shoah Foundation Institute as regional coordinator, a role she carried out for 17 years. In 2006 she was elected co-president of the museum’s board
“At that first board meeting, the minutes were being written in Yiddish and I said to the lovely man, that’s wonderful, but for me to know what is going on the minutes need to be English,” Rockman said with a chuckle. “From then on, no more Yiddish.”
She describes some of her favourite memories as becoming the first female president of a small organisation 23 years after its establishment, and then leading gatherings and working with an inspiring, passionate group of people.
Rockman is thrilled that from the museum’s small beginnings, totally staffed by Holocaust survivors and other volunteers, it is now preparing to open to the public in November as a world-class museum. “For me, the Holocaust centre’s legacy always was and remains to be a natural custodian of the survivors’ memories … carrying through from each generation, that’s important.”
Rockman’s personal legacy was celebrated by the board’s co-president Sue Hampel, at the museum’s AGM in July.
“Pauline, with the support of the board, has done an exceptional job leading MHM during a pivotal time these past four years,” Hampel said.
“Thanks to her commitment and dedication, the museum is positioned for an exciting period with our grand opening later this year.”
The MHM awarded Rockman a life governorship as a token of appreciation for her almost 30 years of service to the museum. She will remain on the board as the immediate past president.