FORMER Melbourne resident Marta Wise was one of two Israeli Holocaust survivors to speak at the United Nations in New York last week as part of a ceremony held to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The 81-year-old, a dual citizen of Israel and Australia, was born in Czechoslovakia, and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944.
In her address she shared harrowing recollections of the camp, where she and her sister became guinea pigs for the infamous physician Josef Mengele.
“We were bled every day. I don’t have a clue how they found blood in our veins because we were so emaciated,” she said.
“I cannot imagine how we survived … everything was evil [in Auschwitz].”
Wise then went on to talk about the importance of keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive, particularly given the anti-Semitism that is currently rife in Europe.
“Not a day goes by without hearing reports of anti-Semitic acts – the desecration of synagogues in the world, graves and hooligans assaulting innocent people for no other reason than [the fact] that they are different from them,” Wise said.
“The passive ‘I could not care less’ attitude of the European community towards anti-Semitism in the 1930s is precisely the same as it is now post-Holocaust.”
Wise migrated to Australia with her family in 1948 and, until making aliyah 18 years ago, lived in Melbourne, where she was very involved in the Jewish community.
Today she volunteers at Yad Vashem, and each year she accompanies a youth group to Poland. For this prestigious speaking engagement, she was hand-picked by permanent representative of Israel to the UN Danny Danon.
“I was very moved to be asked,” Wise said. “As a child in the Holocaust I couldn’t even imagine that one day I would live in Israel with children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and I definitely didn’t believe that I would represent Israel and the Jewish nation at the UN.
“The State of Israel is the greatest victory the Jewish people could have over our enemies,” she said.
Read Marta’s speech in full in this week’s AJN.