In Vienna, Jews Solemnly Remember the Anschluss

Viennese Jews solemnly mourned the victims of the Holocaust here Monday, two days after Austria commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Anschluss–the absorption of Austria into the Third Reich on March 12, 1938.

The Jewish event was low key and nonpolitical. An hour of prayer preceded a march to the Morzinplatz, once the site of the dreaded Gestapo headquarters in Vienna. Some of the Jewish participants were Holocaust survivors, others were born long afterward.

Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitzky, one of many non-Jews who attended, appealed to the Austrian people to apply the lessons of history to the present and future.

Paul Grosz, president of the Jewish community, called for more tolerance and for the right of Jews to live in peace according to their own understanding of freedom and to observe their religion and culture.

Remembrance of the Nazi era was the theme of other Anschluss anniversary events. The Academy Award-winning film “Genocide” was shown at a private screening Saturday night for civic and government leaders, educators and other public figures.

The screening was given under the patronage of Dr. Hilde Hawlicek, minister for education, and Dr. Helmut Zilk, mayor and governor of Vienna.

“Genocide” was produced by the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center and won the 1982 Oscar for best documentary. Nazi-hunter Wiesenthal appeared in person to introduce the film. It also will be shown at the Vienalle film festival.

Another event is “The Courage to Remember,” an exhibition of the Wiesenthal Center which had its international opening here Sunday. It explores in words and images the historical setting, events and the aftermath of the Holocaust. It will be on display at the Palais Palffy until March 27.

Meanwhile, demonstrations continued demanding the resignation of Austrian President Kurt Waldheim because of revelations of his role in Nazi atrocities committed when he served in the German Army in the Balkans during World War II.

Austrian intellectuals, writers, artists and many former concentration camp inmates expressed dismay over Waldheim’s refusal to step down. Rosa Jochmann, an 80-year-old former Socialist resistance fighter and inmate of the Ravensbruck concentration camp, said, “Waldheim is not representative of this new generation. He is not worthy to be your president.”

Waldheim, whose controversial history led to the prohibition against his speaking at any official event marking the Anschluss anniversary, gave a five-minute television address Thursday night in which he called for reconciliation and insisted that Austria was the first victim of Hitler’s aggression.

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