Survivor testimonies

The Phillip Maisel Testimonies Project

The JHC has more than 1300 video testimonies as well as over 200 audio testimonies in its collection. These provide eyewitness accounts of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust, as well as glimpses into the vibrancy of pre-war Jewish life in Europe.

The JHC houses a significant collection of video testimonies from survivors of the Holocaust, mostly from the Melbourne community. This collection is widely used by researchers and students of oral history, the Holocaust and a variety of other disciplines.

Search the collection

The database listing of testimonies is now accessible through JHC Collections online, and testimonies can be viewed by registered users on request. Testimonies can be searched by name as well as by locations during the war. Our next challenge is to index the collection to make it even more accessible for researchers.
Search JHC collections online


The testimonies’ project began in the 1980s as the Melbourne Oral History Project, established by Sandra Cowan and Jenny Wajsenberg and later co-ordinated by the late Anne Bernhaut. They conducted over 200 audio recordings of Holocaust survivors.

In the early 1990s, with the purchase of a video camera, the Video Testimonies’ Project was launched. Holocaust survivor Phillip Maisel began volunteering and immediately recognised the enormity of the challenge, given the passage of time and the ageing of survivors. He made it his passion and goal to interview as many survivors as possible. He has dedicated himself tirelessly to the task. The many testimonies collected are a testament to his energy and perseverance.

Phillip was awarded an OAM in recognition of his efforts. More recently he has turned his focus to the ongoing challenge of digitising the collection and has taught himself how to work in a digital environment.

If you would like to give your testimony or know of someone who is interested in giving a testimony, please contact the Testimonies Department on (03) 9528 1985 or email:

View a survivor testimony

Irma Hanner’s testimony

Irma was born in Dresden, Germany in 1930. Her father died when she was young. Following the outbreak of war, Irma returned home from school one day to find that her mother had been taken by the Gestapo. Irma waited alone in the house for two days. Finally Irma’s aunt came and took her home with her.

In 1942, at age 12, Irma was deported to Theresienstadt ghetto/camp in Czechoslovakia. The conditions were harsh and she was forced to work hard. She became ill and a Jewish doctor performed a tonsillectomy on her without anaesthetic. Irma was only 14 when the war ended. Her mother did not survive.

Eyewitness Project

The Eyewitness short-form testimonies can be viewed on our Vimeo channel