Austrian Students Initiate Monument to Kristallnacht

The ski resort town of Innsbruck in the Austrian Tyrol has erected a Kristallnacht monument thanks to a grass-roots initiative by local students.

The monument, a 20-foot tall, stylized menorah, was unveiled in June. The candles on the monument, which is located on a central Innsbruck square, will be lighted by a laser beam each year on Nov. 9 in commemoration of the Kristallnacht pogroms on that date in 1938.

During these attacks, synagogues were burned, Jewish businesses were destroyed and Jews were assaulted, arrested, and killed throughout Germany. Nazi Germany had annexed Austria earlier in 1938. In Innsbruck, four Jews were killed.

“The monument was erected as a result of an initiative by local students who petitioned the Tyrolean parliament to commemorate the event,” 83-year-old Erik Welsch, one of the few Jews living in the eastern part of Austria, said in an interview.

Nearly 50 students from 11 local schools entered a design competition for the monument, which was won by 19-year-old Mario Joerg.

During the inauguration ceremony, students read from SS orders directing the Kristallnacht pogrom and ordering the police not to intervene. They also explained why it was important for them that the pogrom and its victims be commemorated.

“I am not a highly sentimental person, but I was close to tears,” Welsch said.

Attending the ceremony were Austria’s chief rabbi, Paul Chaim Eisenberg, the Israeli ambassador to Austria, Austrian church and political dignitaries, and representatives of Austrian Jewish communities.

About 40 former Innsbruck Jews also attended the ceremony at the invitation of the town.

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