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Portrait of a Holocaust survivor: 'I won the war against Hitler'

Holocaust survivor Mira Reym Binford
Mira Reym Binford says she was saved from certain death by the actions of her parents and strangers.

Supplied: Harry Borden

They've moved to every corner of the planet, but the term "Holocaust survivor" is a difficult one to escape.

Now, a new project hopes to reveal the individuality of those who lived through WWII and impress upon a younger generation that their horrific experience doesn't dictate who they are.

"They don't want to be defined by this label and the easy generalisations people make about what they think a survivor is," photographer Harry Borden told ABC News Breakfast.

"Like most things it's more complicated than it first seems."

Holocaust survivor Janek Fuchs
Holocaust survivor Janek Fuchs said: "Having today 3 children and 14 grandchildren, I think I won the war against Hitler!"

Supplied: Harry Borden

Mr Borden spent five years travelling the world meeting with almost 200 Holocaust survivors and taking their photos, and he has now compiled his vast body of work in a new book, Survivor.

The men and women who took part also provided hand-written notes to accompany their portrait, and they range from bitterly sorrowful, to angry and then defiant, optimistic and proud.

Like Mirjam Finkelstein, who wrote: "I think of myself as a person, a wife and mother first and a survivor last."

Mirjam Finkelstein wrote: "I think of myself as a person, a wife and mother first and a survivor last."

Supplied: Harry Borden

"I wanted to emphasise everyone's individuality … each portrait is a record of the relationship I had with the person on the day."

Mr Borden named choreographer Felix Fibich as a particularly captivating person to photograph.

"He just had the most amazing face … and he basically said, could he express himself through dance in the pictures and he just started moving in this very expressive way."

Felix Fibich wrote: "In my dancing I was trying to express a full range of human emotions from the joy of life to deep sorrow of pain and suffering of tragic life."

Supplied: Harry Borden

Mr Borden is perhaps most well-known for his portraits of the rich and famous, including Margaret Thatcher and Elton John, and his photos have graced the covers of Vogue, GQ and The New Yorker.

He said the motivation for those taking part in this project varied greatly.

"But I think initially a lot of them hadn't wanted to talk about their experiences and then they felt it was important they got their stories out."

Holocaust survivor Sarah Capelovitch
Sarah Capelovitch wrote: "We must not forget, we must always remember, share our memories. We must not hate, it is a destructive emotion, it does not help to survive and tell the story the way it should be told."

Supplied: Harry Borden

When it came to the handwritten reflections, Mr Borden was again keen to highlight the varying responses.

"One of the people I photographed wrote: 'Remember babies were murdered'.

"Then there was another guy in upstate New York who ran a hedge fund, who lived in this amazing house, and he wrote: 'A clean desk is a sign of a sick mind'."

"So the things people wrote were illustrative of the fact that everybody was different.

"For me it's about intimacy and the words you pick up on are unique and different in each case and so they further personalise the portraits."

Holocaust survivor Azriel Huss
Azriel Huss wrote: "My father says: 'Can't believe what I saw and experienced — and it's even more incredible that I survived and built a new life.'"

Supplied: Harry Borden