Tony Aufgang
I was saddened to hear of Tony's passing. I remember him as a gentle, warm, pleasant soul, always smiling. My condolences.

I have a little anecdote about him which maybe you haven't heard. It was in 1972 and I was on long service leave travelling through Europe with a friend. We were in Norway, having travelled by train from Oslo in the East to Bergen, a quaint little city on the west coast. From there we were going by ferry to the UK. We were waiting in a big transfer hall for quite some time having got there too early. Then, a while later a voice behind me said, "Hello, Aaron." This, was a surprise. Who could possibly know me here? I turned around and there was Tony. Even bigger surprise. What a delight! Apparently, he had come from England on the same ferry that I was taking on its return journey. I didn't get a chance to talk to him because we had to board pretty much straight away. Not much of a story but I have never forgotten it, even after 48 years.

Aaron Ninedek

Very sad to hear about Tony.
It was my pleasure to re-unite with Tony in Australia on our visit in 2016. We had not seen each other for at over 50 years and I was surprised how little he had changed. We were in Melbourne High together as far back as 1956 and, of course, in many Betar camps in the following years - so our friendship goes back even further.It is a huge loss for his family - and for all of us.

Harry Stuart


March 27, 1941- March 3, 2020
This is an edited version of the eulogy presented by his sister Susan Aufgang at his funeral held on 3 March 2020 (7 Adar 5780).

Anthony Aufgang was born on 27 March 1941 and died on 3 March 2020.  He was only known as Anthony to people who didn’t know him.  Those who did know him always referred to him as Tony, which was the name he preferred.

Tony was the grandson of Esther (Frumkin) and Mendel Odonov and Hannah Leah (Borowski) and Israel Aufgang.
Like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, Israel had been a milkman in the small town of Garwolin in Poland.  He died in 1917 from diphtheria.  At some time after his death the family moved to Warsaw.  They lived in a poor part of town.  Hannah Leah died in the Holocaust together with her second son, Mattias, daughters, Ziesel, Rivka and Faige (another daughter Devorah had died in 1932) and three granddaughters.  Hannah Leah’s elder son, Abraham, had left Poland in 1919 and lived in Berlin in Germany for the next 18 years.  In 1937 he migrated to Australia, settling in Melbourne.

Esther and Mendel arrived in Australia from Vitebsk in Byelorussia in 1928 with their two daughters, Grunia and Masha.  Two other children, Hannah and Moshe had died as toddlers.  The family settled in Melbourne.  Esther worked as a seamstress in a factory making men’s suits while Mendel stayed home.  He had been a hawker when he first arrived in Australia.  Esther and Mendel were to play an important role in Tony’s life.

Shortly after arriving in Melbourne in June 1937, Abraham met Grunia, they were engaged in October and married on 14 November 1937 at East Melbourne Synagogue.

Abraham was a leather goods manufacturer and throughout the 1940s and 1950s he owned his own factory in Exhibition Street in the city.  He made handbags, purses and belts.  Grunia concentrated on raising her three children and other home duties.

Grunia and Abraham, together with their two sons, Eric and Tony, had their first home in rented accommodation at 4 Irwell Street in St Kilda, a few steps from the Village Belle and about a 15 minute walk to Esther and Mendel, who lived at 8 Acland Street in St Kilda.

When Tony was about 3 or 4 years old the family moved to 13 Aylmer Street in North Balwyn.  A year or two later, his sister Susan was born.

Tony attended East Kew Primary School and then East Kew Central School.  The years in North Balwyn were mixed; outside the home the three children enjoyed a happy childhood but within the home there was the constant spectre of domestic violence, which was rarely spoken about in the 1950s.  The effect of witnessing the domestic violence and its aftermath was to haunt Eric, Tony and Susan throughout their lives.

Grunia died on 24 January 1954, aged just 42.  Eric was 14, Tony was 12 and Susan was 7.  On 19 March 1954, the three children went to live with their maternal grandparents in St Kilda.  Their father did not join them but visited once or twice a week for an hour or so.

The loss of Grunia had a marked effect on each of her children.  It changed their lives forever.

It had been expected that Tony would go to the newly built Balwyn High School but, as a consequence of his mother’s death, he found himself at Elwood Central School instead.  He then went to Middle Park Central School and on to Melbourne High School where he completed his Leaving Certificate.

Tony struggled at school.  He had been born with part of his brain missing; his corpus callosum, which normally consists of 200 million nerve fibres connecting the left and right hemispheres of his brain.  Without a corpus callosum, Tony’s two hemispheres had to communicate via his spinal column.  This disability wasn’t known to him or anyone else until he was 64 years old, far too late to undo the difficulties he experienced in life.

However, Tony was to achieve an enormous amount in life in spite of his disability.

In about 1955, Tony joined the Zionist Youth Movement, Betar.  This was to influence him for the rest of his life.  He developed a passion for Israel and Judaism and was the embodiment of the concept of Hadar.  He was a true mensch.

On 22 May 1959, Mendel died and the family, consisting of Esther, Eric, Tony and Susan, moved up the road to a flat at 51 Acland Street.  In North Balwyn there had been few other Jews but at 51 Acland Street, eleven out of the twelve flats were occupied by Jews.  To communicate with his grandparents, Tony had had to learn Yiddish from scratch as he had only spoken English with his parents.

On 2 September 1962, the family decreased by one when Eric married and set up his own home and family.

Tony had joined the Australian Taxation Office in about 1961.  He had a mixed career there due to a number of factors, including his disability, but he still found time to be a union representative.  His happiest years were in the Internal Audit Section where he spent six great years from 1966 to 1972.  The most positive aspect of the years he had at the ATO were the friendships he developed with Frank Bowman, John Pelly and Bob Gunsberger.  These friendships lasted until his dying day.  He retired from the ATO in 1999 and, in practical terms, chose to be a gentleman of leisure for the last two decades of his life, doing the things that he enjoyed most.

On 6 March 1969, Esther died which left a great hole in Tony’s life.  Esther had a special place in her heart for Tony and they had formed a close bond.  She had been a mother figure for him after Grunia died.  Tony reminded her of the daughter she had lost and so she was very protective of Tony and did all she could for him.

In June 1972, Tony set off for an adventure overseas.  He spent three months travelling around Europe and then went on to Israel for another three months, much of which was spent on a kibbutz.  He was able to catch up with friends and see the country that he had developed an intense love for during his Betar days.

In December 1972, Tony returned to Australia and his work at the ATO.  He had been transferred from the Internal Audit Section while overseas and his work at the ATO was never the same.  It was a source of great regret to him that he had not stayed on in Israel or made Aliyah at that time.  He returned to Israel a number of times, each time wanting to stay, but as he got older it became more difficult and he never achieved his goal.

Around the end of 1973, Tony moved back to North Balwyn when he bought a unit at 58 Severn Street.  This was just one street away from his earlier home in Aylmer Street.  His sister Susan moved to Doncaster at the start of 1977, so they were only a few minutes’ drive from each other’s homes.  In the 1980s, Tony moved to 14 Maralee Place, Doncaster so he and Susan were within walking distance of each other.

In 1984, Tony commenced his second career, which he enjoyed for the next 20 years.  He was still at the ATO but was not getting a lot of job satisfaction there, so he took up acting.  His first role was in “The Dunera Boys” and this led to another 180 or so more roles, mainly extra work but also bit parts in television series such as “Neighbours”, commercials, the theatre and the movies.  In 1988, Tony was in the film “Evil Angels” (aka “A Cry in the Dark”) where he had two roles.  Meryl Streep only had one.  Tony played the Rabbi in a 1989 production of “Fiddler on the Roof” of which he was particularly proud.  He didn’t need to put on a false beard for the role as by this time he had grown a substantial one himself.

From 1988 to 1990, Tony took part in the annual Moomba Parade as “Shloofy the Clown”.  He loved to entertain children.  Another regret of his was that he never married nor had children of his own.  He was always a kid at heart, enjoying Disney cartoons, Tom and Jerry cartoons, Peanuts comics and such.

Tony loved everything to do with “Harry Potter”.  He had not one, not two but three wands.  He read all the books and watched all the films.  He enjoyed being immersed in the Harry Potter world.  He also enjoyed other science fiction and fantasy movies such as “Planet of the Apes”, “Lord of the Rings”, “Star Trek”, “Star Wars”, “Superman” and “Batman”.

Tony loved the recordings of such greats as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and especially Sammy Davis Jr.  He often spoke of seeing Sammy Davis Jr in live performance as being one of his great thrills in life.

Tony’s other passions were Art (he had a modest collection of paintings), the Essendon Football Club (he followed them for about 70 years), cruising around Australia and the South Pacific and, lastly, Archaeology.  He undertook some studies in Archaeology and took part in a few trips connected with the Victorian Archaeological Survey, assisting in digs around Victoria.  He had hoped to get involved with Archaeology in Israel but this never eventuated.  However, he did spend time with his distant cousin, Elie Borowski, who set up the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem.

Tony’s interest in all things to do with Israel and Judaism manifested itself in a number of ways.  Tony volunteered to go on Sar El, where he worked with Rafi Lehrer, another Australian Betari, on an Army Base in the Negev.  The oppressive heat was difficult for him but he considered the experience to be most worthwhile.

In 2017, Tony went with a group organised by JNF to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheva and stayed on in Israel to catch up with friends.  He felt so privileged to be able to make that trip although his health was declining.

Tony regularly wrote letters to the Australian Jewish News supporting Israel and complaining about the spread of anti-Semitism.  He even turned his hand to poetry; in 1980 he wrote a poem entitled “Dachau – A Reflection” which described a day he had spent at Dachau during his trip to Europe in 1972.  The poem is attached (see below).

Tony served on the Board of Management at the North Eastern Jewish Centre in Doncaster and he was able to set up a Betar group there.  A number of the members of that group went on Machon and became leaders of the movement on their return to Melbourne.  He was delighted with their progress and proud of what he had been able to achieve.

Abraham died on 7 May 1993 and Masha died on 26 March 1997.  Tony and his siblings were very close to their Aunty Masha and her loss was keenly felt.

In 2009, Susan moved to Toorak and Tony moved to South Yarra.  Although in different suburbs, they actually only lived about 100 metres from each other.  They could see each other’s apartments from their respective lounge rooms and could support each other in times of need.

Tony liked to give back to the Jewish community.  On moving to South Yarra, he joined the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation (aka Toorak Synagogue) and was on the Board of Management for the last couple of years of his life.  Tony also served on the Board of the Victorian Association of Jewish Ex Servicemen & Women (commonly known as VAJEX) and attended the Jewish Community Council of Victoria’s monthly meetings as the VAJEX representative.

Tony served as a committee member of his apartment building’s Owners Corporation, spending three years as its Chair.  Attending to the needs of 32 apartments was not easy but he did it until the stress began to take its toll and his health began to fail.

Tony had developed diabetes in 1998 and, early on, it was controlled by diet.  As the years passed it got progressively worse.  He needed medication in the form of pills after a few years but later needed injections.  He was put on insulin a few months before he died, but he was still deteriorating.  He got weaker and weaker and was losing weight.  Finally, on 24 December 2019, he was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, which had metastasised to his liver.  On 7 and 15 January 2020, he saw two oncologists who independently advised that it was too late for treatment of any sort and so he was placed in palliative care for the last couple of months of his life.  He was very well looked after at Cabrini Palliative Care in Prahran and was only in pain for the last two to three weeks of his life, the pain being controlled with morphine.

Tony brought joy to a lot of people and he formed many friendships.  He had over 30 visitors while in palliative care and was able to say goodbye to all of his friends who came to wish him well.  It seemed like there were visitors practically every day.

When Susan rang his physiotherapist to cancel his last appointment there, she was surprised at the response she received from the receptionist, Donna.  Donna told her that Tony used to turn up every fortnight in his little red tracksuit and engage in light banter with the staff, cheering up the whole establishment.  The appointment book had a week spread over a double page and, according to Donna, when they turned the page for the next week and they saw Tony’s name they knew it would be a good week as it was “Tony Week”.

Tony’s philosophy of life can be best demonstrated by his favourite song: “The Quest”, aka “The Impossible Dream”, from “Man of La Mancha”.  Susan mentioned it to him in passing just a week and a half before he died and he proceeded to sing it word perfect, propped up in his hospital bed.

(Lyrics by Joe Darion)

To dream ... the impossible dream ...
To fight ... the unbeatable foe ...
To bear ... with unbearable sorrow ...
To run ... where the brave dare not go ...
To right ... the unrightable wrong ...
To love ... pure and chaste from afar ...
To try ... when your arms are too weary ...
To reach ... the unreachable star ...
This is my quest, to follow that star ...
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far ...
To fight for the right, without question or pause ...
To be willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause ...
And I know if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest,
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm, when I'm laid to my rest ...
And the world will be better for this:
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach ... the unreachable star ...

Tony was an amazing human being who overcame many obstacles in life but still maintained a cheerful disposition.  He had a full life and was grateful for it.  He will be greatly missed by those who knew and loved him.

DACHAU – A Reflection

by Tony Aufgang ~ 28 December 1980

The hot summer sun beat down mercilessly
As I alighted from the train, some years ago;
Walked the long road to infamous Dachau,
Unaware of what lay ahead.
Beneath the archway with the words “Arbeit Macht Frei”, I stopped.
Was this really where so many died?
Brethren, kinfolk, each and every one.
My gaze surveyed the scene, how peaceful it looked.
The huts were new, the flowers bloomed;
Surely not!
But then reality struck home.
Stark reminders lay before me,
Watchtowers along fences topped with barbed wire;
My heart skipped a beat. I WAS THERE.
Inside the museum of Holocaust horror
Were photographs, captions and photostat documents
Telling of inmates and captors.
The deeds unfolded before my eyes filled with tears.
Inside the theatrette, played a film
Of Hitler, the vilest fiend of all.
Scenes of suffering, torment and degradation;
Yet we stood proud, a People vilified.
Suddenly, in the darkness, a scream.
A woman reliving the past rushed from the auditorium,
Heart torn apart.
Then to the huts, gas chambers and crematoria.
The many tiered bunks reflected sub-normal conditions.
Shower-rooms, gas chambers, call them what you will,
Here died the victims.
Their screams permeated the walls for all eternity,
Their souls in torment.
Slowly, ever so slowly, I made my way,
Stunned, but alert to all that surrounded me;
The crematoria lay before me so stark and silent.
Gently at first, then with firm rhythm
My finger caressed the oven grating without shame;
Ash on my fingers, all that remained
Of those gone but one short generation ago.
A sound of sobbing from afar?
But no, the tears were mine.
Uncontrolled, I let them flow freely.
I felt a bond, a closeness, united as one
With the Jews who perished.
Their remains fertilised the gardens wherein flowers abound.
The shadows grew long, the day at an end;
Slowly, so slowly, through the gates and up the road,
To the station and freedom, I made my way
Feeling pensive, but humble.
The day impregnated upon my mind for evermore.

© Copyright  1980  Tony Aufgang