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Permanent Exhibtions


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Jewish Australians have participated in all services and in all spheres of action both at home and abroad.

This exhibition portrays the stories of Jewish servicemen and women in the Australian defence forces from its inception to the present.  

Reflecting the dedication, valour and patriotism of the greater Australian community, this exhibition features the social-military history of Jewish men and women in time of war.
Whilst the most renowned Australian Jewish soldier was Sir John Monash, there are countless others who served with distinction.  Specific spheres of action, such as Beersheba, Galipoli and New Guinea are addressed as are themes such as enlistment, chaplains and religion, women in war, medicine,  prisoners of war, the home front and the ADF today.


The exhibition explores Jewish history from its Biblical origin in the Ancient Near East to the thriving Jewish community here in Australia. While tracing the significant events that have determined Jewish experience, it offers insight into Judaism’s central beliefs, its sacred texts and way of life. It shows the creative responses by which Jewish culture has continued to adapt to changing circumstances, maintaining contemporary relevance while retaining its traditional essence.

The central feature of the exhibition is a timeline of Jewish history. The timeline is surrounded by thematic displays that allow the visitor to discover the intricacies of Jewish belief, texts and traditions. This focus on Judaism as a living tradition culminates in an exploration of Jewish life in Australia, from the arrival of sixteen Jewish convicts aboard the First Fleet, through the various waves of migration to the present. Working closely with the Australian Jewish Historical Society and Australian Jewish history consultant, Associate Professor Suzanne Rutland, the exhibition team has striven to develop a display that illustrates the diversity and dynamism of Australia’s Jewish community in the 21st century and its contribution to the broader Australian community.

Culture and Continuity is artifact based, featuring objects which illustrate the rich tapestry of Jewish civilization through the ages, with an emphasis on the Australian Jewish experience. We are grateful to the many individuals, families and institutions who have donated or provided long term loan of artifacts for our exhibition. Interactive displays provide further insight into Judaism as a living tradition and the memorable characters that brought these traditions to Australian shores.

The Sydney Jewish Museum is grateful to all who have donated their time and efforts to bring this project to fruition. In particular, we pay tribute to the memory of Mrs. Ernestine Freiheiter (born Poland 1914, died Sydney 2005) whose generous bequest in honour of her husband the late Joseph Freiheiter, made this refurbishment of the ground floor possible. 



Introduces the Holocaust, documenting Hitler’s rise to power and its impact on the Jews in Germany following the introduction of the Nuremberg Laws. It culminates in the story of Kristallnacht – the infamous “Night of the Broken Glass” - and subsequent efforts by Jews to leave Germany.


Visitors enter this area alongside a near life-size sculptural relief entitled Walking into the Ghetto. The large-scale images exhibited in a dimly lit space reinforce the enclosed nature of life in the ghettos. Highlights include a large illuminated map, showing many of the ghettos in occupied Europe and excerpts from diaries kept in the ghettos of Warsaw, Vilna and Lodz.


Amidah is the title of a striking new exhibition about Jewish resistance in the Holocaust, forming part of the Sydney Jewish Museum’s permanent displays.

The old image still prevalent today that Jews went ‘like lambs to the slaughter’ falls into the realm of historical legend. The exhibition presents some of the countless acts of defiance and resistance that took place to resist the Nazi genocide.

Jews resisted in groups or as individuals, in public or in hiding. Jews fought as soldiers in all theatres of war and participated as partisans and anti-Fascists in the organised underground movements in Hitler’s Europe. Jews responded to the Nazi assault with protests. They defended their humanity and dignity, performing courageous acts of self-assertion which bear witness to their spiritual and moral resistance.

Oscar Borecki, aged 12, fled into the forest when his shtetl was destroyed by the Nazis. He spent three weeks sleeping in barns and fields, and travelled some 60km before making contact with the famous Bielski partisans. At that time (March 1943) there were around 460 Jewish men, women and children in the group. At their liberation by the Russians, there were 1,200 partisans. “The Bielski brothers kept me and conditioned me when I first arrived. Later, I was sent on different jobs – taking horses to the village, taking grain to the mill. I didn’t look typically Jewish, so I was used as a scout and courier.” Oscar Borecki

Marian Pretzel used his talent as an art student to forge documents and stamps, which enabled him and his friends to escape through occupied eastern Europe from Poland. He understood the German ingrained respect for official procedure and made sure his forgeries were well-stamped. “To a German,” he says, “one stamp on a document meant that someone had checked it; several stamps meant that several people had checked it.”
These and other personal stories of resistance complement the historical narrative together with objects, documents and photographs.

The exhibition has been generously supported by the late Dr Bronia Hatfield, and a Grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.


Commences with the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, when it became apparent that mass shootings were inefficient for the murder of millions of people. The decision to implement the Final Solution, utilising gas chambers in extermination centres, meant that Jews from all over Europe had to be transported by train to Poland. Highlights include objects exhumed from the Serniki mass grave, excavated in 1990 by a joint Australian-Soviet team and presented as evidence of atrocities at the War Crimes Trial in South Australia.


This area documents the history and nature of concentration camps in Europe. Everyday objects used by inmates, including clothing, identification tags and eating implements and the like, tell much of the story.

Highlights of the area include a large interactive map showing major concentration camps, the death camps and the movements of the Einsatzgruppen or mobile killing squads.


This exhibition space documents the aftermath of the war, the liberation of the camps and the Nuremberg Trials. It tells the story of the establishment of the State of Israel and the arrival of many Holocaust Survivors in Australia.


Visitors are able to reflect upon their tour in this quiet area. Highlights include two monumental sculptures. The first is of Janusz Korczak, the physician and educator who ran an orphanage in the Warsaw Ghetto and shared the fate of his orphans in the gas chambers of Treblinka. The other is of Swedish diplomat, Raoul Wallenberg, who ran the gauntlet of the Nazi war machine in Budapest, saving thousands of Jews.


Stories of Survival is a collection of Holocaust Testimonies taken from thirty-five Sydney Jewish Museum Volunteer Survivors. The documentary is a four-hour analysis and explanation of nine phases and elements of the Holocaust. The nine sections cover: Antisemitism – Loss of Rights, Ghettos, Hiding: Betrayal and Rescue, Resistance, Camps, Death Marches, Liberation, Surviving and Migration.

This moving documentary is screened in the Museum’s Edith Linden theatrette on a continuous loop, providing visitors with an opportunity to see and hear witnesses to the events of the Holocaust and experience the emotion of their personal stories.

This film will help to teach lessons learned from the Holocaust for years to come; long after the last Survivor is left to personally tell the story.

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