Austrian Chancellor at Yad Vashem: “We are responsible for our own history”

Chancellor of the Republic of Austria H.E. Mr. Sebastian Kurz toured the Mount of Remembrance, accompanied by by Austrian Minister of Education Heinz Faßmann, Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev and Mauthausen survivor Viktor Klein. The visit included a behind-the-scenes tour of Yad Vashem’s Archives, where Archives Director and Fred Hillman Chair for Holocaust Documentation Dr. Haim Gertner displayed a number of documents – official and private – pertaining to Austrian Holocaust survivors, including the personal inmate card of Mr. Klein.

Following a memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance, and a visit to the Children’s Memorial – memorializing the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered during the Holocaust – Chancellor Kurz and Chairman Shalev signed an Agreement of Principle in Janusz Korczak Square, ensuring document exchange and access between Yad Vashem and the Austrian State Archives and Mauthausen Memorial.

“As Chancellor of Austria, I have to state that Austria and Austrians carry a heavy burden for the shameful crimes committed during the Shoah,” said Chancellor Kurz. “But let me assure you that we Austrians know that we are responsible for our own history. It is our duty and obligation to ensure that the Shoah will never happen again and that my generation and succeeding generations will never forget these horrific crimes.” Chancellor Kurz also announced that the Republic of Austria will contribute to the establishment of the new Shoah Heritage Collections Center at Yad Vashem, providing additional storage and preservation labs for Holocaust-era artifacts, artwork and documentation in the Yad Vashem Collections.

Chairman Shalev presented the Chancellor with a token of remembrance and appreciation: a facsimile copy of 99 works of art depicting scenes from the Bible, housed in Yad Vashem’s Art Collection, which were created by Holocaust victim Carol Deutsch for his infant daughter Ingrid in Nazi-occupied Antwerp in 1941.

In the presence of the Chancellor, Austrian Minister of Education Heinz Faßmann signed an extension to an educational agreement between Yad Vashem and the Austrian Ministry of Education, which will allow hundreds of Austrian teachers to visit Yad Vashem for yearly educational seminars.

The Chancellor and his entourage completed their visit in Yad Vashem’s Valley of the Communities – a maze-like structure created out of Jerusalem stone memorializing the hundreds of European Jewish communities decimated during the Holocaust.