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Posts tagged ‘Holocaust memorial’

My Vienna: how centuries pass at Judenplatz (Jewish square)

Above/featured: Judenplatz at night. The Holocaust memorial is in the foreground at centre. In the background are “To the little trinity” at centre and Misrachi House (Museum Judenplatz) at right. Photo, 10 Jun 2022.

At Judenplatz are clear visual reminders of the city’s first Jewish community in medieval times.

The first Jewish community in Vienna settled around present-day Judenplatz in the Middle Ages with mention in written documents dated mid- to late-13th century AD/CE. Daily Jewish life thrived around the Or-Sarua Synagogue, the Jewish School, and the Mikveh ritual bath. The community along with the surrounding Jewish neighbourhood came to an end with the Pogrom of 1421. Catholic Habsburg Duke Albrecht II rolled out a decree (Wiener Geserah, Vienna Gesera) which legitimatized the expulsion, incarceration, torture, and murder of some 800 Jewish residents; accompanied by destruction and forced takeover of buildings and property.

Below I highlight remnants and traces to the medieval Jewish community at this square in central Vienna.

Judenplatz, Vienna, Wien, Oesterreich, Austria, fotoeins.com

Facing northwest: B, Bohemian Chancellery; H, Holocaust Memorial; L, Lessing monument; M, Misrachi House; T, To the little Trinity. Photo, 20 May 2018.

Judenplatz, Vienna, Wien, Oesterreich, Austria, fotoeins.com

Facing southeast: B, Bohemian Chancellery; J, Jordan House; H, Holocaust memorial; L, Lessing monument. Photo, 20 May 2018.


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My Vienna: Shoah Wall of Names Memorial

Above/featured: Shoah Namensmauern Gedenkstätte (Holocaust Wall of Names memorial site).

I drag my fingers gently down each stone block, across the fine indentations and the print of countless names.
I give quiet voice to names of people I see.

In Vienna’s 9th district is a small green space, Ostarrichi Park, in front of the Österreichische Nationalbank (Austrian National Bank). The park is home to the Shoah Namensmauern Gedenkstätte (Holocaust Wall of Names Memorial), dedicated to over 64-thousand Austrian Jews murdered during the Nazi regime. Public inauguration of the memorial occurred on 9 November 2021 on the 83rd anniversary of the Pogromnacht.

The establishment and realization of the memorial has been a lifelong project for Vienna-born Holocaust survivor Kurt Yakov Tutter, who with his family fled to Belgium in 1930. Kurt and his younger sister, Rita, survived with the help of a Belgian family; their parents were deported and murdered in Auschwitz.

He made a new home in Toronto, Canada, where in 2000 he began working to create a memorial to murdered Austrian Jews. Funding from the national Austria state emphasized the enormous significance of the historical memorial; responsibility for continuing maintenance of the memorial is now shared by the Austria National Fund and the City of Vienna.

The names of over 64-thousand children, women, and men are engraved onto 160 slabs of granite; the slabs are arranged in an oval ring. Within the open and uncovered space, visitors to the memorial can walk briskly past each vertical block, but the air is thick with names.

Selma ABZUG, geboren/born 1886
Ernst ADLER, geb./b. 1904
David ALBRECHT, geb./b. 1871
Grete ALTMANN, geb./b. 1928



Therese WEISZ, geb./b. 1867
Eva WELLISCH, geb./b. 1933
Alfred WERTHEIM, geb./b. 1920
Edmund WESTFRIED, geb./b. 1890

Audio: Mr. Tutter speaks about Austria’s very late road to dealing with the past (Vergangenheitsbewältigung) and why he created the Wall of Names project.


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My Vienna: Aspang Station Deportation Memorial

“Well into the 1970s, the area around present-day Leon Zelman Park was the site of the Aspang Railway Station, which was built in 1880–1881 as a terminal for the regional Vienna-Aspang-Pitten rail line. Despite its relatively central location in the city’s 3rd district, the station served only regional rail traffic and was not very busy. These were likely reasons why after the “Anschluss” the Nazis chose this station for deportation transports.

Two transport trains departed in October 1939 with 1584 Jewish men deported to Nisko in the Lublin District of the General Governorate of occupied Poland as a failed attempt to create the Lublin reservation for expelled European Jews. Much larger deportations resumed from February 1941 to October 1942. 45451 Austrian-Jewish men and women were deported on a total of 45 transport trains to ghettos and extermination sites in (what are now) Czechia, Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, and Latvia.

In Vienna, the cynically-named Nazi ‘Zentralstelle für jüdische Auswanderung’ (Central Agency for Jewish Emigration) organized deportation efforts including forced captivity and assembly or collection points. Four internment stations were established in the city’s 2nd district where prisoners were abused and stripped of their possessions. For every transport, about one thousand people were driven to Aspang Station in uncovered trucks, in plain and open sight of the city’s population.

Of the 47035 Jewish men and women deported from Aspang Railway Station, only 1073 (2%) survived, according to the research by Austrian historian Jonny Moser, himself a survivor of the Holocaust/Shoah. In total, more than 65-thousand Austrian Jews fell victim; most of them began their road to their deaths at Aspang Station.”

•   Paraphrased from Kunst im öffentlichen Raum Wien (Art in public spaces Vienna).

After the war and Allied-occupation period, little was done to improve the station and its tracks. The station was closed in 1971 and the station building was demolished by 1977. The turn of the millennium provided momentum to both city and the national rail company for redevelopment of the area, including apartment blocks, green space, and a memorial. Today, the former railway station is Leon Zelman Park, named after Dr. Leon Zelman who established in 1980 the Jewish Welcome Service Vienna and led the organization until his passing in 2007. The inauguration of the deportation memorial occurred on 7 September 2017 with full opening to the public on the following day.


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My Prague: looking for Kafka & Palach in Olšany

Above/featured: A quiet leafy avenue in Prague’s Olšany Cemetery.

I can’t spend all this time in the Czech capital city, and leave without paying any respects to two 20th-century personalities of Prague. Franz Kafka was an early 20th-century German-Czech writer (e.g., 1912 Die Verwandlung/Metamorphosis), whose writings became known to the world posthumously, thanks to friend and fellow writer Max Brod. In the 1960s, Jan Palach was an important historical figure of opposition who died in protest against the Communist regime.

I’m in the underground metro, heading east from the city centre towards Vinohrady and beyond to Olšany. The sun’s out on a crisp mid-autumn day, and while deciduous trees are left wanting for leaves, the latter have piled like carpets of colour on the cemetery grounds. I’m looking for the graves of Palach and Kafka who are buried in Olšanské hřbitovy (Olšany Cemetery) and Nový židovský hřbitov (New Jewish Cemetery), respectively.


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Dachau: nie wieder, never again

Where: KZ-Dachau, 20 km northwest from Munich, Germany.
What: The blueprint by which murder became a methodical industrialized process.

I once thought I wasn’t prepared emotionally; perhaps I never would. But I couldn’t go further in my long-term examination of Germany and Jewish-German history without a visit.

It’s an overcast morning in early June, and a couple of rain showers accompany me along with a handful of other people, waiting for the site to open at 9am. A dark heavy cloak descends the moment I step through the main gate and into the site. There is dread, waiting. I promise myself to be open as much as possible, to really look and listen.

This is KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau, the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. The abbreviation KZ is “Konzentrationslager für Zivilpersonen” or concentration camp for civilians, although the initial terminology used by the Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS) was KL for “Konzentrationslager.”

There’s a lot to absorb. And maybe, it’s best not to.

Systematic torture and unrestrained cruelty. Forced medical experiments. Arbitrary execution by hanging or gunfire. The destruction of human dignity. The annihilation of hope. This camp as a “model” to broaden the scope and scale of industrial mass-murder. The first commandant of Auschwitz in 1940, Rudolf Höss, honed a career in brutality as SS support staff and block leader at the Dachau camp in late-1934.

I had planned to stay for a few hours at most and leave around noon. I didn’t notice the time. When I finally noticed clear skies and the change in sun-angle, I check my watch. It’s almost 5pm, closing time. Eight hours have flown by outside my bubble, which begins to dissolve.

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My Vienna: Holocaust Memorial, by Rachel Whiteread

Where: Judenplatz, in Vienna’s Altstadt.
What: Holocaust Memorial, by Rachel Whiteread (2000).

How do you commemorate or memorialize the absent or missing? How should the void be acknowledged, recognized, and remembered? Does the act of constructing a physical monument “draw a line”, creating a physical manifestation of marking an end that gathers and wipes away all subsequent future responsibility for remembering?

In Vienna’s Old Town, what was unjustly and violently removed from the city’s long historical memory and cultural identity comes into shape at Judenplatz. Under the public square are ruins of the medieval synagogue destroyed in the pogrom of 1421 with hundreds of Jews driven out, hundreds killed by burning, and the community erased. Directly above these ruins is the Holocaust Memorial which attempts to generate experiences and memories to address the void left behind after the systematic murder of 65-thousand people.

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Shalechet, Shalekhet, Fallen Leaves, Menashe Kadishman, Jewish Museum Berlin, Berlin, Germany, Deutschland, fotoeins.com

My Berlin: Shalekhet (Fallen Leaves), Jewish Museum

The Jüdisches Museum (Jewish Museum) in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district is one of the most visited museums in the German capital. Millions from around the world have visited the museum since its opening in late-2001. With the unique architectural vision and building design by Daniel Libeskind, the museum does not set aside the history of the Jewish community within Germany as being separate from the history of the country as a whole. Instead, there is conscious effort by Libeskind and the Museum to have visitors consider how the historical, cultural, art, literature, music, intellectual, scientific, and economic contributions from the Jewish community are tied inextricably with the history of Germany over the span of two millennia. These very issues and questions are now also driving discussions about the present state and evolution of the Turkish and other expatriate communities within Germany.

One sculpture in particular is both poignant and disturbing.


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Stelenfeld, field of stelae, Holocaustdenkmal, Holocaust Memorial, Berlin, Germany, fotoeins.com

My Berlin: in the field of stelae

Above/featured: Reflection – 19 Mar 2011 (450D).

In Berlin’s Mitte district between Brandenburg Gate and Postdamer Platz is a field of standing blocks (Stelefeld).

The slabs of concrete are uniform in colour, composition, length, and width. However, the blocks stand at different heights, the curved ground below undulates, and when the slabs loom suddenly overhead, the spaces in between can be eerie, adding to feelings of confusion and disconnection.


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