Contemporary Witnesses and Students Remembered Deportations to Concentration Camps
Der Standard, April 13, 2015
Vienna – Most of the more than 90 transports to concentration camps originating from Austria left from the former Vienna Aspang station in Vienna-Landstrasse. This Monday, the location was visited by several school classes who will travel to Auschwitz on the occasion of Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday. A number of contemporary witnesses and Austrian politicians will be visiting the Auschwitz concentration camp as well.
Over the course of their three-day trip, students will participate in the “March of the Living” on Thursday afternoon: Survivors and people from all over the world will walk from the former concentration camp Auschwitz to the death camp Birkenau in silence.
The “March of the Living” (MoL) has been taking place on Holocaust Remembrance Day “Yom Hashoa” since 1988. The association “March of Remembrance and Hope – Austria” (MoRaH) has been organizing the annual participation of some 300 to 500 Austrian students since 2007. On the occasion of the end of World War II 70 years ago, the students this year will be in the company of Austrian officials, led by the deputy speaker of the Austrian parliament, Karlheinz Kopf (ÖVP), the federal minister of Education, Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek (SPÖ), as well as the resident of the Austrian Jewish Community (IKG), Oskar Deutsch.
Contact with Survivors
On the occasion of the inaugural commemoration ceremony at Aspang station on today’s square of the Victims of Deportation, Mr. Deutsch explained that “non-remembrance” had been cultivated over decades, a fact that has substantially changed over the past 20 years. The youth now demonstrates a strong interest in the Holocaust, a fact that has been underlined formidably by the high number of students travelling to Auschwitz to get in contact with survivors and witnesses.
Anita Lasker-Wallfisch miraculously survived one year in Auschwitz. She was rescued by her ability to play the cello: As a cellist in Auschwitz’s girls orchestra she had to play for people who were pushed to the gas chambers or to forced labor on a daily basis. Based on these experiences, her life goal has since then been to “speak for millions of people who no longer have a voice”, Ms. Lasker-Wallfisch explained.
Dealing with Nazi crimes and the part that Austrians played had been shamefully held off, the head of Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB), Christian Kern, attested. The transports originating from Aspang station and other places did finally motivate the ÖBB to initiate a research project to confront the company’s own involvement in the Holocaust. The fact that the deported had to pay for their trip towards death and that a “rebate system” had been developed for that purpose shows “the profanity with which this madness was instigated”, Mr. Kern said.
Students Paulina Koschitz and Nepomuk Trautmanndorff had already been confronted with Auschwitz last year. There, many of the things that happened become conceivable, the students from Theresianum in Vienna explained; through this important examination of the past, students gain additional motivation to “approach the future” right, the students said.
In view of the atrocities committed on a daily basis by “Islamic State“, for example, one must not forget that similar things did take place in Vienna “not too long ago”, according to the Vienna councilor for cultural affairs, Andreas Mailath-Pokorny (SPÖ). The city therefore seeks to erect a cenotaph at the location of the former Aspang train station.
At the commemorations in Poland , Austria will also be represented -besides Mr. Kopf and Ms. Heinish-Hosek- by the federal spokesperson of the Greens, Ms. Eva Glawischnig, and the president of the Vienna School Inspector’s Office, Ms. Susanne Brandsteidl (SPÖ).