As a child Thomas Mautner witnessed two Gestapo officers come to the front door of his family home in Bergen, Norway and drag his foster father away for being part of the resistance against Nazi forces.
A few short years later he had the nerve-racking experience of being smuggled across the border into Sweden to escape the Nazis.
Born to a Jewish family in Czechoslovakia, Dr Mautner was one of the lucky ones, able to get away and spared the horrors of the concentration camps that took the lives of his mother and father.
Decades later, two academics from Norway, Ewa Mork head of documentation at the Centre for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities and journalist and author Dr Arnhild Skre, recently visited Dr Mautner at his Canberra home to help document Norway's assistance in saving Jewish children from the holocaust.
Surrounding him in his Griffith home Dr Mautner has thousands of books, documents and artefacts from his experiences during World War II and from a more than 50-year career as a philosophy academic at the Australian National University.
"There is a goldmine in his shelves," Ms Mork said. "Documenting his life, which is extremely interesting and documenting the efforts of those in Norway."
During the war foster families were asked to destroy all trace of their adoption of the Jewish children for fear of the Nazis being able to locate them. Being in the resistance, Dr Mautner's foster parents did not, which is why he is such a valuable resource for the centre today.
The Centre for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities and two Jewish museums were set up in Norway as a form of compensation to the Jewish people after what they endured during the war.
Ms Mork said one of their principal concerns is to educate younger generations about this dark period of history.
"[Young people] can’t just get a dramatic story that lasted three years, they need to know why it happened and what happened afterwards," she said.
Dr Skre added: "So children can identify and think about what it would be like to be at war, to be alienated because you are as you are."
Visiting Dr Mautner took on a personal significance for Dr Skre whose great uncle and aunt were Dr Mautner's foster parents.
Born in Prague in 1935, Dr Mautner's parents foresaw the incoming danger of the Nazi invasion and managed to get he and his elder sister visas to Norway.
They were part of a group of 37 Jewish children who escaped to Norway and were taken in by foster families. About 20 of these children perished after being sent back to Czechoslovakia and Austria after the Nazis had occupied Norway.
Dr Mautner's father sent a carefully worded letter to the Skre's to avoid the ire of the censors who were intercepting all mail and conveyed the message that should Thomas and Ilse be sent back to Czechoslovakia they would certainly be killed.
Five years after the children had made it to Bergen it was time to move again to remain out of the Nazis clutches. Among a group of about 20 adults and children, Thomas and Ilse were packed into the back of a truck under a tarpaulin.
"Our truck was stopped by the border guards and the Germans on the Norwegian side," Dr Mautner recalled.
“For reasons that I don’t know to this day, I don’t know if they were bribed, or lazy, or benevolent, but they never checked the truck properly."
It was January, and in the middle of a freezing cold, dark winter's night and after the truck crossed into Sweden the group were faced with a long walk.
“I remember complaining bitterly about getting cold feet in the snow,” he said.
After three weeks in an internment camp the siblings were fostered by a Swedish couple and began their lives in Gothenburg.
After beginning a law degree Dr Mautner abandoned it to pursue his passion for philosophy which ultimately brought him to Canberra in 1965 and he knew he'd found his permanent home.
"The advantage of Sweden was two things, the language and the libraries have things you don’t easily get here," Dr Mautner said.
"But in every other respect I thought Australia was a better country and the decisive feature is that people here are much more friendly, just nicer."
After living through perhaps the most atrocious act in human history Dr Mautner looks around at the world today with some deep concerns.
"It’s true that mass murder on this industrial scale that is of course not quite happening now," he said.
"But in every other respect, all this other nastiness, refusal of visas for example, I see very, very close similarities [to World War II Europe] and it strongly reinforces one’s pessimism about the human condition.
"And then there are occasional bright spots. Three or four years ago, we heard about this flood of immigrants from Syria and the Middle East.
"Germany and the Swedes opened their borders and there was a considerable push in Sweden, promoted by all the news media, that we should welcome these refugees.
"I found these expressions of generosity that came out then absolutely remarkable and certainly in contrast to what happened in the 1930s and 40s."
The door to Dr Mautner's living room, where he enters daily to glance upon one of his many books, bears the front page of Sweden's Metro newspaper.
Emblazoned across the issue is the striking blue and yellow of the Swedish flag with "Välkomna till Sverige" or Welcome to Sweden printed on it. It serves as a constant reminder of the country that opened its arms to Dr Mautner when he needed it most.
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