“In Search of One’s Conscience” – Monday at North Adams State
Austrian to discuss role in remembering the Holocaust
NORTH ADAMS Thomas Ortner of Austria, a member of Projekt Gedenkdienst, will present “In search of One’s Conscience” and address based on his thoughts toward Austria as claiming to be the “first victim of Nazi Germany,” as well as its role in the Holocaust on Monday, 4-5 p.m., in Sullivan Lounge at North Adams State College.
Sponsored by the Office of Student Life, the address is free and the public is encouraged to attend. Ortner also will give an overview of Projekt Gedenkdienst, a civil service program funded by the Austrian government in the 1991 amendment of the law describing alternative military service, thus taking “responsibility for that country’s role in the Holocaust”. He will further discuss the efforts individuals in his generation have made to “make amends for the mistakes of the past.”
Austrian native Max Kowler of Lenox, a Jewish survivor of Nazi persecution, heralds Ortner and Projeckt Gedenkdienst as “truly impressive.”
“They believe in undoing what their grandparent did or didn’t do,” Kowler said. “These young people do not fall in the pattern of their grandparents and other Austrians during the time of World War II. The majority of Austrians welcomed Hitler. The majority of the Austrians collaborated with Germany.
“But two generations after, when three quarters of Austrians now have nothing to do with the war, or are too young to have anything to do with the war, these youngsters are intent to bring in the collective of the Austrians collaborated with Germany.
“But two generations after, when three quarters of Austrians now have nothing to do with the war, or are too young to have anything to do with the war, these youngsters are intent on bringing in the collective Austrian responsibility for the Holocaust to remember it and to fight for it never happening again.”
Kowler has met Ortner personally and has talked extensively with him about Austria’s involvement with Nazi Germany during World War II. Kowler said it has been Austria’s intention to disassociate and erase its involvement with the Nazis since they lost the war. To listen and talk and know young Austrians such as Ortner are trying to make amends for the country’s past is impressive, Kowler said.