|Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno) 31st May, 2000|
Austrians bring lesson of peace to Reno area
Interns teach at Holocaust center at UNR: Fulfill service commitment.
By Janice Hoke
Two young Austrian men have chosen to be personal ambassadors of peace to northern Nevada and are teaching students about prejudice in their country that helped the Nazis’ persecution of Jewish people in World War II.
Heinz Boesch, 26, and Andreas Feuerstein, 22, are fulfilling their commitment of service by working in the Center for Holocaust, Genocide & Peace Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. Austrian males must spend eight months in the military, 12 months in community service in Austria or 14 months as Gedenkdienst, or commemorative service interns, in Holocaust institutions in Europe or the United States.
“This is more meaningful,” said Feuerstein. “I want to work for a better future and a peaceful society instead of learning how to use a rifle.”
Interns pay their own airfares and expenses and although they receive the same stipend from their government as do their fellow interns in Europe, the exchange rate lessens the buying power of the money here, Boesch said.
They designed a website for the center, staff the office and publish a newsletter, but they also have been visiting elementary, middle and high schools in Winnemucca, Stead, Virginia City, Sun Valley, Verdi and Reno.
In Shelley Beckett’s senior English classes Thursday at Hug High School in Reno, the pair explained the history of Jews in Austria from the Black Death through persecution by the Nazis during World War II.
The talk by the two young men made an impact on the Hug students, who have seen Steven Spielberg’s film “Schindler’s List” in class by parental permission. The students wrote poems based on characters in the film and also did research on aspects of the Holocaust.
“It really hit me,” said Ryan Meyer, 18. “It was overwhelming.”
“I knew most of the facts,” said Robert Spellacy, 18. “But the experience of them being from Austria gave me a whole new feeling.”
He said the Austrians’ style and demeanor, “so much less egotistic and more humble and the words they used,” were effective.
Using maps showing railroads leading to concentration camps or where Jews were murdered in Russia by Nazi killing squads, the Austrians quietly explained details of how women and children were forced to run just before they entered the gas chambers so they would breathe deeply and die more quickly.
When they asked the class of 16 how many businesses they thought were taken away from Jews in Austria in 1938, the students guessed 100 or 300. The actual number, Boesch said, was 26,000.
“Imagine how hare it was to start again in another country with nothing but your bare hands, without knowing the language,” Boesch said.
In answer to one student’s question about what percentage of Jews are left in Austria today, the Austrians replied less than one percent.
Seth Neria, 18, said it surprised him that “all Jewish people totally left (the country).”
While the Hug students were strongly impressed with the presentation, some didn’t think such a persecution could happen in the U.S.
“We are raised in the kind of atmosphere where it doesn’t matter what race you are,” said Ryan Meyer, 18.
- Date 2. July 2016
- Tags Pressearchiv 2000