Austrian chancellor says country took too long to acknowledge responsibility for Holocaust

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz admitted that it had taken too long for Austria to acknowledge its responsibility for the atrocities that were committed during the Holocaust.

Speaking at the site of the Maly Trostenets concentration camp outside Minsk in Belarus, at the inauguration of a memorial for some 65,000 Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust, including 10,000 from Austria, Kurz said: “It was the easy thing to do after the war, to conceal our responsibility. But today, in Austria, we admit our responsibility. Until today our efforts to address the crimes of the Nazi era continue,” adding that the new monument was “a significant and visible testimony” as part of that effort.

“We will not forget the name of this place and the names of the victims,” Kurz concluded. “We see it as a memorial and as a place of remembrance. And we see it as a warning, to reiterate our strong commitment to ‘never again’.”

Following the inauguration, Cantor Shmuel Barzilai of the Vienna Jewish community sang the Kaddish mourners prayer, and read out the names of the Austrian victims who would have had their birthday on that day.

The new memorial at Maly Trostenets was designed by the architect Daniel Sanwald, and consists of a concrete block divided into ten pillars symbolizing the ten transports from Vienna. On it are the first names of the Austrians killed in Maly Trostenets.

Before the inauguration of the memorial, Kurz visited the nearby forest of Blagovshchina, where most of the Austrian victims were murdered and where some 550 yellow memorial plaques for individual victims have been hung on the trees by the IM-MER association which also worked towards establishing the monument.

Kurz himself affixed a new plaque to memorialize Arthur Loschitz, 13, from Vienna who was murdered in Maly Trostenets.

Also present at the ceremony was Oskar Deutsch, president of the Jewish community in Austria, who thanked Kurz for his candour regarding Austria’s past.

“The story of Maly Trostenets shows us that the crimes of the National Socialists are not forgotten, no matter how long ago. The extermination site Maly Trostenets is not only a synonym for mass murder but also for decades of silence, for repression and passivity,” said Deutsch.

He also warned of renewed antisemitism, saying that “Prejudices against Jews and the state of Israel have increased in recent years,” and that “Anti-Semitic stereotypes are still prevalent in Austria, as recent studies have shown.”

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