Austria honours the memory of Austrian Holocaust victims in Belarus

Between 1941 and 1944, more than 9,600 Jewish Austrians were murdered by the Nazis in the ghetto of Minsk and at the Maly Trostinec concentration camp in today's territory of Belarus. On the occasion of his visit to Minsk on 18 September 2009, the Secretary General for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Dr. Johannes Kyrle, unveiled a memorial stone donated by Austria to honour the memory of these victims.

In addition to the Secretary General, the formal ceremony was also attended by the Chairman of the Jewish Communities of Belarus, Leonid Lewin, the Chairman of the Belarusian Association of Former Concentration Camp Detainees, Mikhail Treister, the Israeli Ambassador in Minsk, Eduard Shapira, and Grigory Abramovich, the Rabbi of Minsk. The long list of attendees also included the Austrian Ambassador in Moscow, Dr. Martin Vukovich (co-accredited for Belarus), and representatives of the Belarusian Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

In his speech, Secretary General Johannes Kyrle pointed out that Hitler's henchmen also included Austrians and that many of our fellow citizens derived material benefits from the Austrian Jews' deprivation of their rights and subsequent annihilation. Although the sorrow inflicted upon the victims of Nazi persecution could not be made good, Austria was assuming her responsibility by way of contributions from the National Fund and the Reconciliation Fund as well as by the return of and/or compensation for "Arianised" property, helping to mitigate the consequences of the agony and injustice that are still felt to this very day. He underlined the extraordinary international recognition of Austria's contributions at the Holocaust Era Assets Conference, held in June 2009 in Prague.

Secretary General Kyrle called for an untiring battle against anti-Semitism and xenophobia: "Only in this way can we prevent a repetition of the unparalleled horror of the Nazi persecution of the Jews. The memory of this singular catastrophe must be kept alive. The Austrian Federal Government therefore pro-actively supports continued historical research into the Holocaust at the national level, e.g. through the Future Fund, and strongly invests in Holocaust education in schools and in providing the public with information on the Holocaust and its causes."

Repelling anti-Semitic and xenophobic stereotypes and prejudices was, not least, also a challenge for the international community. "In view of the Holocaust experience such phenomena must never again be played down. Indeed, fighting them requires the determined socio-political commitment of all well-intentioned political forces. In this context I refer to the Austrian commitment within the framework of the intergovernmental Task Force for International Co-operation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, chaired by Austria in 2008. But other organisations such as the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the United Nations are also called upon to demonstrate both concerted commitment and co-operation to this end," concluded Kyrle.



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