Mina Fink

Mina and Leo Fink
Mina and Leo Fink

One of the members of the Melbourne Jewish community who assisted the Buchenwald Boys on their arrival in Australia was Mina Fink. (For a biography of Mina Fink, go to the Australian Dictionary of Biography or The Leo and Mina Fink Story.) Mina and her husband, Leo, were leaders in the community. (For a biography of Leo Fink go to Yiddish Melbourne.) Their energy, insight and forward vision helped shape the lives of many of the survivors who immigrated to Melbourne. Mina’s special focus was the Buchenwald Boys.

Mina, in her capacity as President of the Ladies’ Group of the United Jewish Overseas Relief Fund, met immigrants as they arrived at Station Pier, Port Melbourne or Melbourne’s Spencer Street Station. Many of the Boys fondly remembered being welcomed by Mina and other representatives of the Melbourne Jewish community. Max Z wrote that upon his arrival at Spencer Street Station, he was greeted by Mina Fink and another community leader, Jack Lederman. Max remembered being driven by them, together with Buchenwald Boys Stefan B, Charlie S, and Sam S, to the Jewish Welfare hostel at 818 Burke Road, Camberwell. Those Boys whom Mina did not greet on their arrival in Melbourne she met soon after, when she visited them at the hostel in Camberwell, or when she invited them to the Fink family’s holiday home in Frankston.

Mina and Leo Fink were <em>untifirers</em> at Sam Su and Bettye's wedding. From left: Mina and Leo, Bettye and Sam, Bettye's mother.
Mina and Leo Fink were untifirers at Sam Su and Bettye's wedding. From left: Mina and Leo, Bettye and Sam, Bettye's mother.

The Buchenwald Boys, like so many other Holocaust survivors, arrived in Melbourne without family or social connections. They did not know the language or customs, and their employment future was uncertain. Having arrived as a young immigrant herself, Mina felt an affinity towards the Boys and took them under her wing. Realising that the Australian culture and way of life were very different from anything that the Boys had known, Mina tried to smooth their social integration into the Melbourne Jewish community. She often invited young Jewish women to meet the newly arrived Buchenwald Boys. Mina became very close to some of the Boys, guiding and encouraging them. The special relationship that developed between Mina and the Buchenwald Boys led to her being affectionately called the “Mother of the Buchenwald Boys”.

Yossl B described Mina Fink as being

better than a mother.… She told us why she was doing it. It was because she was an orphan herself…she had the feeling for us. They called us Buchenwalders orphans. She couldn’t be better.

Leo Fink helped many of them find work and he gave some of them business advice. Leo and Mina’s son, Nathan, told how his parents taught the Boys according to the proverb, “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”

Mina Fink, affectionately called the Mother of the Buchenwald Boys, surrounded by the Boys at 40th Anniversary Ball
Mina Fink, affectionately called the Mother of the Buchenwald Boys, surrounded by the Boys at 40th Anniversary Ball

Some of the Boys, when they married, asked Mina and Leo Fink to perform the important and honoured role at their wedding ceremony of untifirers, a Yiddish word for the role usually performed by the groom’s parents. In this role, Mina and Leo escorted the groom to the chuppah or wedding canopy.

Some seventy or more years after their immigration, it can be seen that Mina’s relationship with the Buchenwald Boys influenced their future lives in Melbourne. She helped them feel welcome, smoothing their way, encouraging their participation and contribution to the future character of the Melbourne Jewish community. As a group, the Boys share strong Jewish values, which they have instilled in their children and grandchildren, many of whom are active members of the Melbourne Jewish community. Some of the children and grandchildren of the Buchenwald Boys are leaders in Jewish education and communal life.

The memory of the generosity of Mina and Leo Fink has been carried on through the connections between the children and grandchildren of Mina and Leo Fink and those of the Buchenwald Boys.