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Austria Commemorates Victims of National Socialism

Memorial Mauthausen

5 May 2010 marks the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp complex.

It was on 5 May 1945 when American troops put an end to the atrocities that had taken place in Nazi-annexed Austria's largest camp, one of the largest in Europe. It is estimated that the camp's death toll was in the hundreds of thousands, thus making it a central symbol of the Holocaust in Austria.

"The remembrance of the National Socialist genocide and the commitment to a tolerant and humane society are tasks which words alone cannot rightfully fulfill: action is necessary", proclaimed Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger on the eve of Austria's official Holocaust memorial day. He went on to say that "Austria has pursued numerous activities in memory of victims of violent National Socialist rule, as well as intensifying educational work on Holocaust history."

Recent examples of what Spindelegger is referring to are the renovation of Jewish cemeteries in Austria and of the Mauthausen-Gusen memorial complex, as well as the allocation of significant funds toward the restoration of the memorial site at Auschwitz-Birkenau. In June the 'Salzburg Seminar', financed in part by the Austrian Future Fund, will illuminate the positive contributions made by Holocaust education in preventing genocide and other crimes against humanity.

On 11 November 1997 the Austrian national parliament declared May 5 the "National Day against Violence and Racism in Memoriam of the Victims of National Socialism."

"On this Day of Remembrance," said Spindelegger, "we honor those who were persecuted or who otherwise suffered under National Socialist terror, as well as those who engage in today's struggle against violence and racism. We must learn from the past in order to effectively fight current violence, antisemitism, and xenophobia."