Vienna Plans a Large Holocaust Memorial

Die Presse (11/25/04)

Vienna is planning to erect a memorial on the Aspang grounds for 60,000 people deported by the NS regime. City Councilor Schicker says he doesn’t want a "stele landscape like in Berlin."

Vienna - It is to be a memorial "that gives back the deported their names - which will be an enormous challenge, when considering that there were 60,000." The project, announced by Vienna’s head of municipal planning, Rudolf Schicker, during an interview with Die Presse, will occupy the grounds of the former Aspang Railway Station in the Landstraße.

The first step will be to organize an international architecture competition in 2005, says Schicker. At the present time the Aspang grounds is a huge abandoned area, which is to become a new residential project called "Eurogate" housing 13,000 people. This new urban area will have as its entrance a memorial commemorating those deported. Between 1939 and 1942, some forty-seven trains filled largely with Austrian Jews left this place. Currently there is only a small plaque, along with the square renamed "Square of the Victims of Deportation" in 1995.

Schicker hopes for a "modern, attractive solution that doesn’t insult anyone." Since the surface area has a slight upward slope to it, one could certainly develop something "visually aesthetic."

Railroad Tracks will be Integrated
Schicker doesn’t think that the project will evoke the emotional discussion like the memorial did in Berlin: "The result will certainly not be a stele landscape as in Berlin." What is certain is that the original tracks of the Aspang Railway Station will be integrated into the memorial. Also, another idea is to disply a railway car from that time.

Schicker hopes to be able to gain the approval of all of the parties so that the project can get underway. Time is of the essence: "There is the danger that those who survived the deportation will not live to see the memorial." During the coming months Schicker plans to establish a committee of proponents of the idea.

Initial consultations and agreements are already underway: The Israelite Religious Community is also included, said their president, Ariel Muzicant. The Secretary General, Avshalom Hodik, believes, that the deportation should be "visualized" and integrated into the concept. He doesn’t support Schicker’s idea to chisel all of the names of the deported into stone since this idea was already used in the memorial on the Judenplatz in Vienna: "That’s sufficient."

Contributors to the project will also be the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance. The newly appointed director, Brigitte Bailer-Galanda, supports such a memorial for Vienna: "It is the ideal and right place for it." She has, however, some personal doubts as to the project’s financing: "After having financed the memorial designed by Rachel Whiteread on the Judenplatz, I can’t really imagine that the City of Vienna will finance a second Holocaust memorial.

Financing Uncertain
As to the financing Schicker, himself, wants to deal with the Federal Government, which has other financial worries on the horizon: Private investors will be sought for 2005, the year of the big jubilee?. Generating more money for a memorial could be difficult, says Schicker: "I hope it works."

There is another project which is surely easier to make happen: In 2007 a new junior- and senior high school is to be erected next to the square bordering the Aspang grounds, and it will be named Aaron Meczer: The Jewish teacher gave tremendous support to children during the deportation and in the concentration camps until the day of his assassination.