Resident of Emmy Monash Esther Wise, 98, was recently approached by the Association of French Teachers in Victoria (AFTV) to share her personal experiences and stories from World War II.
Her life was then made into a French documentary by university student Antoine Hobbs, and from January 2024 the film will be used in the French VCE students’ curriculum.
Although Esther found the retelling of her story an emotional experience, she explained that her desire to ensure today’s students know the truth, gave her the strength to film the documentary.
Over the weekend at Emmy Monash a group of over 60 people, comprising Esther’s family and friends, members of the French Consulate in Victoria and members of the AFTV gathered together to view the first official screening of the documentary, Never Forget.
Esther shared in the film that she was asked at one stage of her journey, to destroy everything she had that showed her identity. She tore up every photo, identification card and anything else she had into tiny pieces and put it in the toilet of the train she was on in France. But she kept the yellow star she had to wear during the war in France, showing that she was “juif” (a Jew).
She says she does not know what she was thinking to risk keeping it, but something in her knew it would be important to have it as a reminder of what she went through and for others to know that it happened. The star stood on display this past Sunday, as a stark reminder to all in the room.
Esther’s friend Viv Parry, who is chairperson of the Child Survivors of the Holocaust Melbourne group, was instrumental in having this documentary filmed. Esther was supported during the process by her daughters Ruth Shafir and Brenda Ross and their families.