Victims, perpetrators part of our society, Austrian president at Auschwitz

Art Service 2/PAP

The Austrian president has stated at the site of the former Auschwitz Nazi German death camp that it is the duty of the Austrian people to remember the victims and to remind the world that perpetrators were also part of Austrian society.

President Alexander Van der Bellen attended on Monday the opening of a new Austrian exhibition at the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau headlined 'Far Removed – Austria and Auschwitz.'

Van der Bellen stated that the perpetrators had also been shaped by Austrian society and that racism, anti-Semitism and national socialism had not fallen from the sky.

He quoted former Austrian Federal Chancellor Franz Vranitzky as saying that Austria was co-responsible "for the suffering that, although not inflicted by Austria as a nation, but indeed inflicted on other people and peoples by citizens of this country."

The president said that Auschwitz-Birkenau was a symbol of industrial-scale extermination, where also several dozen thousand Austrians, most of them being Jews, Roma and Sinti, had been murdered.

The Auschwitz concentration camp was built by Nazi Germany in 1940 to imprison Poles. Two years later, Auschwitz II-Birkenau was constructed and became the place of extermination of Jews. Nazi Germany killed at least 1.1 million people there, mainly Jews but also Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners and people of other nationalities.