Austria-Czech SIG #Austria-Czech Letter to the Stars - Vienna, May 5 2006 #austria-czech


robert fraser <robertandginafraser@...>
 

Dear Friends -

As part of six weeks of travelling in Austria, Czech Republic, Latvia and
Estonia, I was privileged to be present at the May 5 commemoration of
deportations >from Austria.
Herewith a few comments.

The sun was shining on May 5 and Vienna put on it's best summer weather,
with the chestnut trees in full blossom. As we approached the
Stephansplatz, thousand of schoolkids were milling around and we worried
about getting a place where we could see anything. Not to worry though, an
area by the side of Stephansdom was fenced off with seats for special
visitors and "oldies" - that is, anyone not a schoolkid!

Part of the space was fenced off to accommodate the 50,000 white roses, a
veritable ocean of them. A stage and large screen were already set up and
the screen showed films of the project and previous events. Then, some time
late (not untypical for Vienna), it started. I don't recall the names of those
who participated, but there were talks by several prominent people within the
project. Several holocaust survivors were led on separately, each
accompanied by a school child. The child read a potted history of each
survivor's life; where they came from, where they were deported to, how they
survived etc. Then the survivor spoke in similar vein. Some had lived
through several concentration camps and even death marches. They weren't all
Jewish. Some were Sinti (Gypsies) some clergy, some Communists, but all were
Austrians who were deported.

Live music was provided, and two elderly sisters, who survived, played some
music (I think Chopin) for four hands on one piano. Finally, a long line of
kids walked on stage with handcards with one letter each to spell out the
words "Flowers For Remembrance" (In German, of course). Then some visitors
form overseas, mainly California, it seemed, took flowers and told the
audience to whom they were dedicating their flowers, mostly relatives who
didn't survive the Holocaust.

Whilst all this was going one, many of the audience, by pre-arrangement,
were writing name tags of victims and attaching them to bunches of roses,
to be later distributed by the kids on the doorsteps of their last known
addresses.

There were many flowers left, so Gina and I took a bunch and later laid them
at the Judenplatz memorial. Others appeared to have done the same.

That afternoon, we walked along Zirkusgasse, which contains the last
know address of many victims, and saw flowers laid on the doorsteps -
already faded >from the sun.

I'm glad we were able to be present. It was extremely moving and a wonderful
effort.

For more details, see http://www.lettertothestars.at

Robert W Fraser
Dianella, Western Australia
robertandginafraser@...

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