A reflection as we left Austria: by Meg Frank

One thing I learned that will change my teaching immediately is that Austria was not taken over  but joined Germany before the war. As our guides explained, right after the war Austria was called Hitler’s first victim. Even though this wasn’t true, Austria embraced this role which allowed them to deny culpability in the mass murder of the Jews. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that the Austrian government finally admitted that Austrians were full participants in Hitler’s plans. We spent time in both Vienna and Salzburg visiting recent monuments to the victims. We had unique opportunities to spend time with the people who pushed for, designed and saw the construction of these memorials. We then went to the memorials and saw for ourselves their beautiful works and felt the impact for ourselves. We met Milli and Hannah in Vienna who pushed for memorials to the victims and also to memorialize important sites throughout the city. In Austria we we were lucky to spend time with Arthur who designed several installations along the Marlo Feingold bridge to teach people in Salzburg about the Jews who lived there and those who settled there as displaced persons. Having people see  the memorials and learn from them is the goal of the creators. But to actually meet those who pushed for the creation of the memorial and to hear about their struggles and feel their passion is very moving and inspiring. I can share this experience with my students and they respond so much better when I talk about the people I meet first hand. Having a better understanding of how Austria owned up to its past will help me show the students how a country can address the problems in its past without censoring its citizens. 

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