Who am I and where do I belong? These are two of the questions prominent Jewish community member Nina Bassat explores in her memoir, Take the Child and Disappear, as she examines her memories as a child Shoah survivor.
The book was launched late last month on Zoom with more than 300 participants who were mesmerised by her story of survival, triumph and loving dedication to her mother, family and community.
The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) co-hosted the launch for their past president. In introducing Bassat, JCCV President Daniel Aghion said, “Nina describes herself as ‘this polite little woman from Brighton’. That modest phrase – though accurate – conceals a remarkable life and history.”
The book spans her survival as a child in the Lwow Ghetto in Poland during World War II, her journey to Australia in 1949, her new life here with her growing family and her legal and communal roles, as she reflects on her enduring commitment to Diaspora Jewry.
In conversation with lawyer and author Bram Presser at the launch, Bassat discussed her memories of loss and indiscriminate acts of kindness, insights from her personal experiences and reflections on her relationship with her courageous mother, Hadassa.
Questioned by Presser as to how she was able to navigate such loss in her writing while maintaining an optimistic and triumphant tone, Bassat said, “I tend to block out anything in my life that is horrible … my default pattern is to laugh and to smile – I love life.”
Presser said that Take The Child and Disappear was a “must read”.
“Even sitting at home in front of a computer, one could feel the enormous love and respect for Nina,” he said.
“I was especially thrilled with our conversation, full of Nina’s wonderful stories, unparalleled insight, wisdom and humour.”
Bassat was joined by her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren at the Zoom launch.
“To have an event that connected us globally was very exciting – family and friends from Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, USA and Switzerland, and from interstate were able to join us, which made the event so personal,” she said.
“I was overwhelmed by the large number of participants who proved me correct when I say that we have an absolutely outstanding community.”
Take The Child And Disappear is published by Hybrid Publishers, $24.99 (rrp)