Thursday, 21 October 2010
Next week the Austrian Ambassador to Australia, Dr Hannes Porias, will confer the Austrian government’s Holocaust Memorial Award 2010 on Vienna born Melbourne resident, Eva Marks, a long-term family friend of the Danby family. There will be a letter of congratulations from the President of Austrian parliament, Barbara Prammer. The award, which was instituted in 2006, is assigned annually to one person who has ‘shown special endeavours for the memory of the Shoa’—the Hebrew word meaning catastrophe. It serves as a symbol of Austria’s opposition to racism and as a signpost for the commemoration of the victims of that period of World War II.
Eva Marks is the first woman and the first Australian to receive the award, recognising a lifetime of active contribution to the remembrance of the atrocities of the Second World War. This has included 17 years as a guide at the Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Centre in Elsternwick in my electorate. She has also been a volunteer at the Jewish Museum of Australia, which the Victorian government rightly describes as the best boutique museum in Victoria. Eva has for decades talked and lectured publicly on radio, TV and in person about her experiences during the Shoa and the experiences of people like her in central Europe and the former Soviet Union. The Melbourne International Arts Festival featured an interactive video installation, Evolution of fearlessness, to which she contributed significantly.
Eva fled Austria to Latvia after the Anschluss, the union forced by Hitler between Austria and Nazi Germany, in the hope of getting a visa for the United States for her and her family. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, the Russians transported her and her family to a gulag in Siberia and later to another gulag in Kazakhstan in 1943. She was liberated in 1947 and came to Australia, where she has built a new and positive life in Melbourne with her husband, Stan. A resident of Caulfield, Eva describes the story of her life in her autobiography, A Patchwork Life.
The conferral ceremony next Thursday, in addition to having the Austrian Ambassador, will have various other dignitaries there, including her husband, Stan. The musical ensemble will include her son, Peter Marks, and grandson, Nicholas. It will also have the attendance of a young man called Daniel Schuster from the Austrian Service Abroad who has been very anxious to secure my presence next Thursday night. He sent me an email saying I had a very official role and that I must be present. I do appreciate all of the work he has done to publicise this important service for both Australia and for his country, Austria, in remembrance of those events, particularly his service here in Australia on behalf of the Austrian people to commemorate those events.