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Category: Interviews »

Subject: Cultural Studies »

Bernard Korbman describes his migration to Australia

Bernard Korbman and Mara Moustafine.

Holocaust museum director Bernard Korbman describes his migration to Australia as a child of Holocaust survivors.



Date Added:

01 April 2009


source not available


mov (Quicktime);

File size:

10.2 MB






Well my full name actually is Bernard – or Bernana Sel Bzegovski (sp?) Korbman. I was born in France, that’s the Bernana Sel – the Bzegovski is that both my parents were holocaust survivors and they came from Poland and the Korbman is my stepfather’s name, who adopted me from the age of nine. My father died in France when I was seven years old. My mother, she had an old boyfriend from Poland who had come to Australia in 1948, he’d been very good to her and had sent her some money to help look after my father. And when my father died he organised for my mum and I to come to Australia and so arrived in Australia at the age of nine in 1957.


I lived in St Kilda, then Elwood. And there was a very large migrant population and in fact, a very large Jewish population when I went to Elwood High School I’d say 66% of the kids were Jewish and that’s where I really started to become aware of some of the differences between Jewish kids and non-Jewish kids. I remember – I was – in my class of 30 kids when I was in about Year 10, there was only one Jewish child who had a grandparent, yet all our Australian friends, had grandparents and cousins and all sorts of things.


And I used to get really upset and angry and in a sense it was almost like blaming the victims because I played in the first 18 in AFL football for the school, I was in the cricket team. I sang in the school rock band and every time there was something happening, all my Australian friends would have their mothers and grandparents and aunties and uncles all looking at the school sports and music functions or whatever and my parents were never there. They were too busy working. Or if I’d go to Christmas parties, again, it was really quite a defining moment in a sense because I’d be sitting with all my Australian friends and I’d hear the stories of, “Your great grandfather arrived in Warrnambool at such and such a time and he – with a horse went to Gippsland set up a farm and..” Everybody knew where they came from, everybody was there talking about it.


I knew nothing about my own heritage, I knew nothing about my grandparents or very little and so on. And I was extremely envious of all of those Australian friends. And then when I started to meet up with non-Australians but other migrants, Greeks and Italians, it was the same story, they may be migrants to Australia but they still knew where everybody was back home and if they spoke about going back to Greece or Italy, they’d say things like, “Oh I went to my village and all my cousins came out and we had a big feast.” And so on.


And, you know, if we went back to Europe, there was certainly no – nowhere special – you know, you wouldn’t go to Poland to have a big feast with relatives who no longer existed. So there was this anger in me about that.


End transcript