Faymann and Schmied: Set of Measures for Holocaust Education

Austrian Federal Chancellery (06/08/2009)

In view of the recent neo-Nazi activities of some young people, Chancellor Werner Faymann and Minister of Education Claudia Schmied presented a set of measures on May 29, 2009, to improve political education at school. “We have to convey to the pupils values such as tolerance, humanity and respect for others,“ stressed the Chancellor. We must not keep silent in the face of Fascism and disrespectful treatment of others. “Being vigilant instead of ignoring“ is also Schmied’s motto, as she emphasized. The fact that the new set of measures was presented to the public at the Documentary Archives of the Austrian Resistance (Dokumentationsarchiv des Österreichischen Widerstandes/DÖW) was described by her as a “political statement.“  

As of the school year 2009/10 onwards, all teachers of the compulsory school system are to receive special training in political education during their studies. Compulsory in-service training in this field would also be offered. Events involving contemporary witnesses and discussions are to be increased in vocational schools. Furthermore, Schmied called on the teachers to ensure that all pupils visit a memorial site at least once. Cooperation with the Austrian Mauthausen Committee would be intensified. Other measures consisted of widening the range of seminars for teachers and developing a manual for teachers in cooperation with the platform “erinnern.at.“ Starting in autumn 2009, awards such as the Federal Cross of Honour of the Ministry of Education focusing on tolerance, would be granted, explained Schmied. The measures were no guarantee that incidents such as the recent one in Ebensee, where four local boys between the ages of 14 and 16 had insulted the participants in a ceremony held in commemoration of the liberation of the Ebensee concentration camp, can be avoided in the future. But she wanted to optimally support the teachers in their work. Chancellor Faymann promised to increase the budget of the Austrian Mauthausen Committee to ensure “that every pupil would go there at least once.” At present, about 60,000 pupils per year visited the memorial site, but the numbers should be increased to some 100,000 visits per year, said Faymann.