Born into an observant Jewish family in Bialystok, Poland, the second of nine children, Aron Sokolowicz grew up with a deep commitment to Jewish tradition and culture. Throughout his youth he involved himself fully in Jewish organisations.
Transported from the Bialystok Ghetto in 1942, Aron spent several years in the Auschwitz concentration camp until its liquidation on 18 January 1945, when he was transported to Ebensee, Austria, to be liberated several months later by the Americans. His wife and their four-year-old son, however, were murdered during the Holocaust. After liberation, Aron married Cyla, a Holocaust survivor from Lodz, in a displaced persons’ camp in southern Italy. They soon moved to Israel where their two daughters were born, and lived there until migrating to Australia in 1957.
Determined to tell the story of the Holocaust and to perpetuate the memory of the victims, Aron initially established a mobile Holocaust exhibition, which included photographs and personal memorabilia, before embarking on a project with a handful of other equally dedicated members of the Jewish community, to build Australia’s first permanent Holocaust museum in a city with the world’s largest Holocaust survivor population per capita in the Jewish diaspora.
The Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Centre (JHC) opened in March 1984, and Aron Sokolowicz, who was also active as president of the Federation of Polish Jews, as a member of the State Zionist Council and of ‘Kadima’ (the Jewish Cultural Centre and National Library) served until his death as co-president of the JHC. His wife, Cyla, was founding editor of the JHC Centre News. A testament to the passion and commitment of Aron Sokolowicz and his fellow founder-survivors, the JHC remains dedicated to the memory of the six million Jewish Holocaust victims and to combating prejudice and racism.