Nazi victims group raps reduced hours at Austrian Mauthausen memorial

(JTA) — A group representing Nazi concentration camp victims criticized Austrian authorities’ decision to close Mauthausen national memorial site on Mondays for most of the year.

In May the Interior Ministry announced the new hours for the memorial site, in a statement noting that the Monday closing would happen from September until February.

But the Association of Social Democrat Freedom Fighters appealed to the Interior Ministry on Wednesday to reconsider, calling the closure “a disgrace.”

Gerald Netzl, head of the group’s Vienna branch, told Reuters that because Adolf  Hitler was born in Austria, “We have a special responsibility for history and for the future. We must take this responsibility seriously.”

He added: “Mauthausen… is the central Austrian remembrance and commemorative site for the crimes of National Socialism, comparable to Auschwitz-Birkenau for Poland.”

An interior ministry spokesman said the closures were needed for technical improvements and updates of the visitor center and museum, which have been expanded in recent years, and the days had been chosen to coincide with the least busy periods.

A spokesperson also noted that the partial closure was accompanied by a decision to cancel the $2.70 admissions fee.

About 200,000 visitors a year come to Mauthausen, the center of a complex of concentration camps where between 100,000 and 300,000 prisoners, including many Jews, died between 1938 and 1945.

The camp’s location, near Hitler’s home city of Linz, was chosen mainly for its proximity to granite quarries, where prisoners were initially put to work extracting building materials for prestigious buildings in Nazi Germany.

For decades, Austria — which was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938 — maintained that it was Hitler’s first victim and glossed over the enthusiastic welcome he got from many Austrians.

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