The Legacy of Holocaust Survivors

Austrian Press Agency (01/26/2009)

A “Letter to the Stars“ Presents a Unique Report to the International Holocaust Remembrance Day: ”The Last Witnesses“

Vienna – They were children and young people when they were humiliated, persecuted and expelled, and their families were murdered. Today some forty-five Austrian Holocaust survivors living in the U.S., Israel, England, Australia, South American and Austria, are telling their life stories.

The book, “The Last Witnesses,” which was presented on January 27 on the day the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated, is their legacy: the legacy of the “Last Witnesses.”

Now during their twilight years they tell how they were persecuted in Austria, how they survived the Holocaust in concentration camps, or while fleeing or in exile and how they dealt with the memories afterwards.

Until now hundreds of survivors have told their personal experiences to young people in the project “A Letter to the Stars,” the most substantial project of dealing with contemporary history which was being conducted throughout Austria’s schools. And many of them report that meeting with school children from the country which expelled them, has led for the first time to a feeling of reconciliation with the former country of their roots. “The circle has been closed,” said Dorit B. Whiteman, renowned U.S. psychologist, who was forced to flee in 1938. “The project has taken effect to the point that I can now stop hating Austria and the Austrians,” believe Max Lerner, who as fourteen year-old was able to escape as spies with the U.S. Army returned and arrested the Nazis from behind the lines. Ilse Cranmer, who fled while on a children transport to England, said: “Through engaging with these young people, I could close in peace.”

“The Last Witnesses,” which thanks to the support of Dr. Anton Wais, CEO of the Austrian Post was sent to hundreds of survivors throughout the world. The book is a unique, ambitious documentation.

The book of some 400 pages is a legacy of people still full of life who have learned, based upon their histories, what counts in life and how important it is to remain human. Or, as one survivor of Auschwitz who remained in Austria expressed: “I have learned that each one of us, in every life situation, has the opportunity to be helpful or mean, courageous or cowardly, human or inhuman, observant or ignorant. We must every day re-learn what it is to be human.”