VIENNA – Austria’s capital was preparing on Thursday to commemorate the 80th anniversary of a violent night of attacks carried out in the territories under Nazi control against Jewish homes, businesses and places of worship that marked the beginning of the Holocaust with two distinct projects.
On the night of Nov. 9-10, 1938, members of the Nazi Party’s paramilitary “Brownshirts” (SA) and German civilians targeted and ransacked buildings belonging to the Jewish community across the Third Reich, which at the time included what is now the Federal Republic of Austria after the country was annexed by Germany in March of that year.
To memorialize that fateful event – which is considered by historians to be the starting point of the systematic extermination of Jews carried out by the regime led by Adolf Hitler – Vienna is projecting the names of the 68 Jews who were murdered during “Kristallnacht,” meaning the “Night of Broken Glass,” on the Austrian capital’s so-called “Tower of Names.”
Every night of the week at the symbolic time of 19.38 (7.38 pm), the names of these former Viennese residents are displayed until sunrise in 12-minute loops, spelled out in gigantic letters on the facade of the building housing the insurance company Uniqa, located in the city center.
“The aim is to keep the memory of every person murdered by the Nazis alive,” Gerhard Baumgartner, the director of the Archives of the Austrian Resistance (DÖW), told EFE. “With the Tower of Names, where tens of thousands of people can see the names of the victims, we avert the Nazis’ intention of extinguishing any trace of Jewish life in Europe.”
In a parallel project, the DÖW has updated Memento-Vienna, an app for smartphones and tablets with GPS that allows users to discover the name, address and biographical details of victims.
The app was initially launched in 2016 with data of 5,000 victims who lived in downtown Vienna, although now the database has been expanded to include some 50,000 killed throughout the capital.
“The Nazis not only killed their victims but also took away their names, their faces and their environs,” Thomas Stern, one of the researchers leading the project, told EFE.
Memento-Vienna is primarily aimed at students, tourists and descendants of Holocaust victims who return to the city to get to know their roots and the fate of their ancestors.
Some six million Jews across Europe, 1.5 million of them children, were killed between Kristallnacht and the end of World War II in 1945, in what was the largest state-sponsored genocide in history.