The Lives section of the JoM is currently peopled with those still living and making a significant contribution to their community, and to New Zealand. Writers such as David Cohen, Jill Leichtner and Oliver Hoffman look to history too, to profile those individuals whose work and life have shaped New Zealand as it is today. Exploring all the five sections of the museum, the JoM visitor can discover many short biographies of notable individuals and their often remarkable lives.
The JoM is compiling a comprehensive collection of short biographic profiles of notable Jewish individuals who have made a significant contribution to New Zealand. Our collection is by no means exhuastive: we have only just begun to draw together a representation of the extraordinary lives of individual Jewish peoples who have, since Samuel Pollack first arrived to settle in New Zealand, made significant contributions to areas of public life such as business, politics, arts and culture, science, journalism, medicine and education. Over the coming months, more notable individual profiles will added to the collection that you will find in this Lives section of the Museum, but also in every other section of the JoM; our intention is to people our 'rooms', exhibitions and collections with these exemplary individuals and in doing so, hope to inspire and enrich the lives of our visitors with their examples.
Those who feature in this section so far (more coming soon), mostly hail from Austria and Germany, which at the usual time of their arrival—in the first half of last century—created its own challenges in a country that bled thousands of its own lives in the fight against Nazism. Unfortunately, some of that anti-Teutonic feeling was also directed against those fleeing Europe.
Nevertheless, against considerable odds in many cases, these migrants managed to establish themselves in New Zealand. Some would go on to make a reputation in short order. Their newfound countrymen’s respect grew apace.
So who were they? Definitive lists are difficult to compile, and probably not even desirable. But, for starters, in the world of art we have the poets Karl Wolfskehl and Charles Brasch, the stage actress and drama producer Maria Dronke, cellist Marie Blaschke, artist Margot Philips, and the painter Friedensreich Hundertwasser.
In academe: Paul Hoffmann, a respected professor of German literature, along with another German educator, Gerda Bell; there was, as well, the socialist Werner Droescher, the groundbreaking philosopher Karl Popper (who famously solved many of his epistemological and political riddles while domiciled at the University of Canterbury), the economist Wolfgang Rosenberg, along with the philosopher and lively cultural figure, Peter Munz.
In business and in politics: Hallenstein’s chief, Willi Fels, architect Ernst Plischke, writer, publisher, and physician Erich Geiringer, the businessman and patron of the arts Denis Adam, and the Chief Justice Thomas Eichelbaum. Not forgetting the mother of the country’s current prime minister, Ruth Key (née Lazar).
Please continue to visit the Lives, Faith, History, Arts and Holocaust sections of the Museum and meet our new additions as they are gathered and uploaded here for your interest and pleasure.
Image header (above): Maria Dronke 1904 - 1987, Alexander Turnbull Library Reference: PAColl-5872-25-01 Photograph. Permission obtained to reproduce this photograph from the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa.