Tuesday May 6, 2003
Austrian Holocaust Victims
VIENNA, Austria (AP) - Thousands gathered Monday
to remember the 80,000 Austrian victims of the Holocaust
in a rare public acknowledgment of the Alpine country's
complicity in Nazi-era crimes.
The mostly youthful crowd released thousands of white
balloons in memory of the victims at a ceremony attended
by Holocaust survivors and President Thomas Klestil.
"Everyone was a possible victim of a regime, which
like no other before or after, persecuted, tortured and
murdered Austrians," Klestil said. "It's important, even
indispensable, to keep the memory of that period
The ceremony was the culmination of a nationwide
grass-roots project in which school children were
encouraged to research the Holocaust.
About 65,000 Austrian Jews perished in the Holocaust,
as well as 15,000 others, including Gypsies, homosexuals,
political resisters, Jehovah's Witnesses and handicapped
About 15,000 students joined the project - dubbed "A
Letter to the Stars" - by "adopting" a victim,
researching that person's fate through databases,
archives and oral histories, and addressing thoughts
about the victim in the form of a letter.
Later in the ceremony, several relatives of Holocaust
victims placed small stones upon the balcony's balustrade
in memory of loved ones and in accordance with Jewish
Most of the ceremony - held on the national day of
remembrance for Austrian victims of the Nazi era - was
conducted on a stage set up in front of the balcony where
several Holocaust survivors briefly addressed the
Vienna's church bells rang out in memory of the
victims, while the melancholic strains of the soundtrack
to the movie "Schindler's List" were played at different
The project was started by two journalists who want to
preserve the memory of the victims. "Even five years ago
there wouldn't have been this kind of support," said
Andreas Kuba, one of the organizers. "Today there's a new
generation of students whose parents weren't involved in
World War II."