Flowers in Memory of NS Victims

Der Standard (02/15/2006)(kri) 

Project of commemoration undertaken by school children: 80,000 roses are to give the victims a symbolic home

Vienna .The 80,000 Austrian victims of National Socialism who were robbed, expelled and murdered, were also our neighbors who were violently torn from society. Many individual initiatives have already traced the paths of former residents and have led to the erection of commemorative plaques at places where they once lived. On May 5, the National Day of Commemoration against Violence and Racism, the victims will be symbolically returned to their homes under the project, "Flowers of Memory."

Within the larger framework of "A Letter to the Stars," begun in 2003, school children, together with survivors, will bring 80,000 white roses to places throughout Austria where NS victims lived immediately before their deportation (see: in German only). This serves to document where racism has led and where xenophobia and intolerance can lead today if one isn’t prepared to learn from history, as Andreas Kuba, one of the initiators emphasized on Tuesday.

Also represented on the prominent support committee is former Styrian Governor, Waltraud Klasnic. She came to the presentation of the project in her new function as head of the Future Fund. Her intention is, said Klasnic, to promote permanent awareness, emphasizing, above all, the meaning of dialogue between generations.

This is an essential part of "Flowers of Memory:" Thousands of school children have researched and documented the personal stories of some 65,000 Holocaust victims and survivors registered in a database established by the Archives on the Documentation of Austrian Resistance (DÖW). The database also allows for survivors as well as relatives of former neighbors to be contacted.

On May 5, the roses which were planted on Stephansplatz will be picked and placed before the house doors. Since many of the persecuted were brought from the provinces and placed in collective housing in Austria’s capital, the majority of addresses were located in Vienna. Altogether some 62,000 addresses were researched and found. For the contemporary witness, Angelika Bäumer, the white rose as a symbol for resistance but also for innocence appears to arouse almost too much pathos.

This is, however, necessary; otherwise such initiatives would not find resonance among the public. Alfred Worm, President of the Support Committee, drew attention to the fact that the current 800 survivors are still waiting to be called to Austria. One hopes that the visits, organized by the Jewish Welcome Service, will be financed by means taken from the Future Fund headed by Klasnic.

Forgotten Camps
On Tuesday was the opening of the exhibit, "We Hadn’t Even Begun to Live", initiated by the Child Psychiatrist Ernst Berger. The exhibit documents the fate of about 3,000 children and young people who were branded as difficult to rear, or characterized as criminal or outsiders to the community, and housed in so-called police youth protection camps. The exhibit on the Lost Camps can be viewed until March 5 in the Volkshochschule Favoriten, and from March 15 to April 7 in Vienna’s Urania.