Human Interest

Mauthausen survivors entrust youth with keeping solidarity oath alive

By Wanda Rudich

Vienna, May 10 (efe-epa).- Survivors of the Mauthausen Nazi concentration camp pledged to build a freer world after they were liberated 75 years ago and now, unexpectedly confined due to the coronavirus, they have passed the torch of those efforts over to a new generation via the internet.

They did it in an emotional ceremony compiled into a video, as they were unable this year to pay tribute at the former camp, now the Mauthausen Memorial just west of Vienna, which has been tradition every second Sunday of May since 1946 and brings in thousands from around the world.

In an hour long film, survivors and representatives of Mauthausen associations from around 20 different countries, separated by thousands of kilometers, recalled the terror of life in the camp and the need to keep the memory of it alive to ensure such acts are not repeated.

On 16 May 1945, 11 days after liberation, the survivors of Mauthausen signed a pledge to tell the stories of what they had witnessed and suffered at the camp.

“It’s important not to forget the horror of the concentration camps, not that there are few survivors left,” Aba Lewit, a Jew born in 1923 who currently lives in Austria, said.

Daniel Canoch, another Holocaust survivor from Lithuania, said it was important to “stop any kind of racism, fascism and antisemitism.”

In a message directed particularly towards the younger generation of Europeans, David Sassoli, the president of the European Parliament last month said: In Mauthausen, one of the most terrible Nazi concentration camps, the very denial of our humanity was embodied.”

“Our history teaches us that returning nationalism will not protect us. From new pitfalls because the sacredness of action of the borders as well as the search for a pure and univocal identity will only produce new enemies.

“On the contrary, Europe has been formed, and we want to continue to be formed, with our differences, with political, religious and cultural pluralism.”

Between 1938-45 Adolf Hitler deported almost 200,000 people to Mauthausen and other camps in its network, such as Gusen, including Jews, political prisoners, prisoners of war, Roma, homosexuals and others persecuted for their religion.

Among them, there were 7,500 Spanish republicans.

Around 90,000 prisoners were murdered at Mauthausen-Gusen, including 4,500 Spaniards, either through slave labor or arbitrary executions.

Three-quarters of a century later, the world is in a dangerous situation once again, according to Enric Garriga, president of Amical Mauthausen, a Spanish remembrance association.

“Despite the difficulties, it remains important to uphold the values” that the deported Spanish prisoners fought for, he told Efe in an interview.

Guy Dockendorf, the president of the international Mauthausen committee, said: “Today, we will not only overcome the limitations the virus places on us but also space and time.”

This was the objective of Humanity Without Borders, the slogan this year for the celebration of the anniversary of the liberation of the camp at the hands of US soldiers on 5 May 1945.

“No-one could imagine that in the year 2020 we would all be confined and that an unknown and deadly virus would close the borders,” he added fromLuxembourg.

He made this statement after young people from 17 countries read the Mauthausen Oath in their respective languages. The oath pledges never to forget the horrors of the camp and to pursue international solidarity in memory of the millions killed by Nazi-Fascism.

Sassoli said the text formed the base of European rights.

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