International Commemoration Ceremony Against Forgetting in Loibl

10.06.2017

International Commemoration Ceremony Against Forgetting in Loibl
(photo credits: Mauthausen Memorial / Stephan Matyus)

The efforts to entrench this long ‘forgotten’ subcamp of the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austrian and Carinthian cultural memory were the focus of the International Commemoration Ceremony at the former Loibl concentration camp. Seventy years ago, the prisoners of the Mauthausen concentration camp and its 49 subcamps, including the Loibl North subcamp, were liberated. On 10 June 2017, the International Commemoration Ceremony in memory of the victims of the Loibl North concentration camp took place on the Carinthian side of the Loibl Pass in the former roll call area. The programme included commemorative speeches, the voices of eyewitnesses from that era, and a visit to the Loibl South concentration camp memorial site.

The events began with a wreath laying ceremony at the northern entrance to the tunnel. Several international diplomatic representatives had come to commemorate the forced labourers who died here. ‘The motto for this event, “Internationality Unites”, is a pledge and is reinforced through the participation of several international delegations in today’s commemorative event’, said Carinthia’s state governor, Peter Kaiser, in his speech. This was already helping, he continued, to strengthen international and cross-border solidarity and collective memory.

In his commemorative address, the writer Alois Hotschnig stressed that it was about making a stance: ‘Our focus is not on the past, but on the here and now. It is about wanting to know.’ Where watchtowers are being built once again, we need to keep an eye on these.‘ Looking at and looking away – we are both, and the choice between them is a choice about ourselves.’ Ambassador Valentin Inzko, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, also emphasised that the event was not just about the past but that its message was universal and should be communicated as such.

Talk by an Eyewitness

Daniel Simon from the Amicale de Mauthausen Paris also referenced the motto of the event, ‘Internationality Unites’: ‘It is about a relationship with the tragic chapter of Nazi domination in Europe that is memorial, ideological, cultural and philosophical in nature, which we seek to preserve in order to shed light on our present and help us to think about the future.’ Hermine Liska spoke about her memories of that time. She survived a Nazi ‘re-education home’ and as a young woman joined the resistance of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. ‘As an eight-year-old, I was made to feel the full extent of what exclusion meant at that time. Today I tell my life story in schools and in doing so, I hope to help young people develop the self-confidence to say No to negative peer pressure.’

International and Austrian delegations took part in the ceremony, as well as several representatives from associations of the victims of National Socialism. The Mauthausen Memorial was represented by Jochen Wollner, its commercial manager, and Ute Bauer-Wassmann (Commemorative Office). Music was provided by a youth choir, the Jugendchor Danica/Mladinski zbor Danica, St. Primus/ Šentprimož, conducted by Barbara Mistelbauer-Stern.