One Hundred Portraits of NS Survivors on Vienna’s Grand Boulevard Ring

Der Standard, May 7, 2019

German Original:

Luigi Toscanos photo exhibit „Against Forgetting“ will be on display until May 31. Federal President Van der Bellen will attend the opening.

Vienna – On Vienna’s Burgring, facing away from the fence at Heldenplatz, portraits stand side by side. They are two meters high and thus higher than most passers-by, and they show the faces of NS Survivors: Jews, Roma and Sinti, people who escaped the National Socialist euthanasia program.

The photographs were taken by German-Italian photographer Luigi Toscano. He has been photographing people who were able to escape the Nazis’ campaigns of destruction since 2015. He travelled a lot for this purpose as he had to visit the aged Survivors in their homes. Some did talk about their suffering and their experiences in the Holocaust for the first time, according to Toscano.

Photo Only After a Longer Conversation

Most portraits came to be after a longer conversation. „I believe I was lucky. As an Italian living in Germany, I was met with trust.“

This is the first exhibit of the works made in Austria within the framework of Toscano’s project „Against Forgetting; “ previous locations included Ukraine, Germany, and the United States. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the International Holocaust Memorial in Israel have included the works into their archives.

Guest Worker Child and Autodidact

On Monday, Toscano personally oversaw the setup of the portraits along the fence at Heldenplatz. As a photographer, the 46 year-old son of Italian guest workers, who lives in Mannheim, Germany, is an autodidact. Bevor embarking on an artistic career, he worked as a roofer, a bouncer, and a window cleaner.

The fact that the photos are now shown in Vienna is owed to the initiative of the photographer, the organization of the Vienna Psycho-Social Center for the Support of Victims of National Socialist Persecution and their Relatives (ESRA), as well as German and Italian funding.

Toscano Approached Van der Bellen

A year ago, Toscano approached Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen - who will be attending the formal opening on Tuesday - with the exhibit idea. Van der Bellen commissioned ESRA with the implementation of the project. A project like this is „part of the social support for Survivors,“ ESRA managing director Peter Schwarz said. „It documents that their suffering is recognized.“