School Project Searches for “Last Witnesses” of National Socialism

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (01/25/2007)

“A Letter to the Stars” enters its fifth year

Vienna – The large-scale project on contemporary history, “A Letter to the Stars” enters its fifth year. Having as motto, “Ambassadors of Remembrance,” some 15,000 pupils will contact Holocaust survivors throughout the world and document their life stories. As the organizers of the project, Josef Neumayr and Andreas Kuba, said at a press conference, a database comprising 2,500 “last witnesses” has been established for this purpose.

The first time “A Letter to the Stars” received news coverage was in 2003, when school children sent 80,000 white balloons containing letters up into the air at an event commemorating the victims of National Socialism on Vienna’s Heldenplatz. Since then 40,000 pupils have participated in the project, according to statistics offered by the association, “Learn from Contemporary History.” In May of 2006, some 80,000 white roses were placed at the doorsteps of former residences of Austrian NS victims.

Today students who are interested will take up contact through e-mail, letters or telephone with Austrian NS survivors living abroad. Moreover, thirty selected youths will visit witnesses in New York in April and in London in the fall. Reports of their experiences will be published on the homepage:

Minister of Education Claudia Schmied (Social Democratic Party) characterized the project on Thursday as “a diamond in the reform of our educational system” and praised “the invaluable cooperation” between teachers, pupils and parents.