Monthly Archives: May 2013

An Invitation From The Austrian Government

 P1000560 It was with great surprise that an email and telephone call has led to this posting. On Wednesday, April 10, 2013, I was notified by Niko Wahl, curator of the Mauthausen Memorial, about 90 miles from Vienna, Austria, that a permanent display of “This Is Your Life, Hanna Bloch Kohner” would be opening along with the an entirely new exhibition at the memorial on Sunday, May 5.

P1000655 The museum, which was closed for many years, has been restructured and modernized to enable visitors to bear witness to the testimonies and artifacts from this infamous concentration camp. The result of the contact made by Mr. Wahl led to an invitation by the Austrian Ministry of Culture, for myself and my husband, Steve, to come to Mauthausen and take part in the ceremonial re-dedication of the memorial and museum.

P1000581 With more than one-thousand invited guests, including the Heads of State from Austria, Poland, and Hungary, Ministers from Israel and Russia, and American Ambassador to Austria, William Eacho, we had the opportunity to witness the dedication speeches, the introduction of 30 Mauthausen survivors, and ceremonial commemorations to be included in a time capsule that will remain in place at the memorial for at least 100 years.

P1000599 I was honored to see the promenant place that Hanna’s story has, just off the main museum entrence. Hanna’s display features an eight minute segment of the “This Is Your Life” episode. As I observed the many guests in attendance who came through the permanent exhibit, I had the opportunity to share Hanna’s story in more detail. This was the experience of a life-time, and the result of work we do at Voices of the Generations, that continues to be rewarding, fulfilling, and ever more important.

Julie Kohner with American Ambassador to Austria, William Eacho and his wife, Donna Eacho, at the re-dedication of the Mauthausen Memorial.
The State of Israel memorial at Mauthausen.
The State of Israel memorial at Mauthausen.

Mauthausen Memorial Commemoration

P1000650 This past Sunday, May 5, 2013, marked the 68th anniversary since the liberation of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp. Among those liberated that day in 1945 was my mother, Hanna Kohner, who miraculously survived four Nazi concentration camps including Auschwitz. Mauthausen was the last of the four camps she was held in, and along with the many  thousands of prisoners who passed through, was placed into forced labor in the winter of 1944. Though Mauthausen was not specifically set up for systematic murder, an estimated 100,000 to 300,000 perished under harsh conditions that included forced labor and starvation. My mother was fortunate to survive this dark period, and her story is one of inspiration and love concurring the evils and brutality that she encountered during the war years.

P1000660 As such, I was delighted to hear that Hanna’s story was about to become part of the Mauthausen Memorial. It is Austria’s largest memorial commemorating the darkest episode in this country’s history, from 1938 to 1945.

P1000550 The extensive site with its original buildings is a testimony to this time and became a site of remembrance in 1949. In 1970, a permanent exhibition was installed and remained in place until a restructuring in 2010.

After years of work, the Mauthausen Memorial was re-dedicated on May 5, 2013.