Museum challenged to remove Nazi-era toys

A figurine of Hitler and swastika banners forms the backdrop of this Nazi-era toy set displayed inside Leuralla's toy and railway museum.

A figurine of Hitler and swastika banners forms the backdrop of this Nazi-era toy set displayed inside Leuralla's toy and railway museum.

Katoomba resident and granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Rachel Besser, believes the toy and railway museum in Leura is an innapropriate place for Nazi-themed toys and a Nazi flag to be exhibited.

Katoomba resident and granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Rachel Besser, believes the toy and railway museum in Leura is an innapropriate place for Nazi-themed toys and a Nazi flag to be exhibited.

A Katoomba resident is calling on the operators of the NSW Toy and Railway Museum in Leura to remove displays of Nazi-era toys and swastika flags and banners, or at least provide warning notices for visitors, following a trip to the tourist attraction last week which she claims was "traumatic and led to nightmares".

But the museum's management has defended the permanent displays in their current form as being part of the history of 20th century toys and noted there were disclaimer notices next to each Nazi-themed exhibit that indicated the museum did not condone what the toys represented.

A grandchild of Holocaust survivors, Rachel Besser said she had visited the museum at Leuralla many years ago with her two eldest children and complained to management about the Nazi-themed displays at the time, so did not expect them to still be displayed without any warning.

"Last week I took my youngest children [aged six and seven] there because my son really wanted to see the toy trains," she said.

"There were Nazi propaganda toys displayed in three different parts of the museum, some right next door to Barbie dolls and toy trains and cars - it's just not right... There is a very small sign on the cabinet saying that Nazi propaganda ultimately led to war crimes, but nothing else (is mentioned)."

Ms Besser said it was when she interviewed Holocaust survivors living in Sydney a few years ago for the Stephen Spielberg Shoah Foundation - which funds a worldwide project to document as many survivors' accounts as possible - that she realised "the full extent of my grandparents' experiences of the [Nazi concentration and labour] camps".

"Seeing a real, full-sized Nazi flag pinned up at the toy museum sent me reeling into a sleepless night of nightmares and fear and grief of the suffering my family went through [including deaths] at the hands of such a regime," she said.

"I am stunned by this very public display of a very skewed version of history in a museum meant to display toys and trains.

"It is inappropriate, repulsive and grossly offensive and should not be be allowed.

"They should donate those items to a Jewish museum or burn them."

The museum's owner-director Elizabeth Evatt told the Gazette last Friday the toy collection had been open for more than 30 years and the Nazi toys have been part of the exhibited items from the beginning.

"We are a history museum and like all museums you can't just present [only] what you like," she said.

"We feel obliged to present toys as they have been presented throughout history so we can't therefore choose to not present toys that were hugely influential at the time.

"We are not condoning them [the Nazi toys], but that's not to say we can say they didn't happen.

"There are disclaimers at the displays - they have always been there."

In response to Ms Besser's call to provide warning notices for visitors, Ms Evatt said: "I don't think that's necessary."

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop