Walter Fantl is fourteen when Hitler marches into Austria; at the age of 18 he is deported to Theresienstadt and, at the age of 20, to Auschwitz. Together with his father, he walks on the Birkenau ramp on September 29, 1944, unaware of what is going to happen. When the 21-year-old comes back to Vienna in July 1945, nothing has remained of his life other than a wide leather belt: the only thing he was allowed to keep after the selection. Until liberation, the belt is a survival symbol for him, one which he clings to every day. And to this day a piece of memory from the darkest time of his life: when he lost his entire family.
Today, Walter Fantl is one of the last surviving contemporary witnesses in Austria. Based on years of conversations and numerous original documents, the historian and journalist Gerhard Zeillinger traces his moving life, which leads from the sheltered childhood in Bischofstetten in Lower Austria directly into the horrors of the Nazi era, and then into the zero hour after being freed.
Gerhard Zeillinger, born in 1964 in Amstetten, Lower Austria, studied German philology and history in Vienna, dissertation on Julian Schutting. Professional activities as publishing editor, literary scholar and historian. Since 1982 numerous publications in domestic and foreign literary magazines and anthologies, as well as features on the radio. In 2001 Edition Thurnhof published “Wald: Stilübungen” and in 2013 the Literaturedition Niederösterreich the travel story “Oświęcim. Trip to Au.” In addition, many years of activity as a literary critic for Der Standard, Die Presse and Literatur und Kritik, among others.
Moderation: Martin Pollack, journalist and writer
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