Vienna, 7 November 2008 - "The events that happened during the night of 9 to 10 November 1938 are among the most shameful in our history," stated Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik today. "In the November pogroms Jews were abused, killed and deported to concentration camps. Throughout the entire Nazi empire countless synagogues were damaged or destroyed. These atrocities mark the transition from discrimination and exclusion of the Jewish population to its systematic persecution, which culminated in that rupture of civilisation, the holocaust."
The Foreign Minister reminded her audience that in Austria the pogroms, cynically referred to as "Crystal Night" by the Nazis, had been characterised by special cruelty on the part of the authorities as well as great zeal on the part of collaborators and Nazi followers. In Vienna alone, 42 synagogues and meeting houses were devastated and 4,600 people deported to Dachau concentration camp during that November night.
"Memory warns us to be alert, to nip things in the bud, but it also reminds us to subject our own conduct to repeated critical scrutiny. During the Nazi regime Austrians were perpetrators, and many people simply looked on. Everybody bears responsibility for the development of our society. We must take a close look at cases of discrimination and fight such tendencies with determination, solidarity and tolerance towards all religions," affirmed Plassnik.
"Those who persecute or discriminate against others are also enemies of their own country. In Austria, in Europe and in the world as a whole we want to live together on the basis of mutual esteem, tolerance and respect. As a Foreign Minister who is also responsible for European affairs I try to strengthen those institutions in Austria and at the international level which have consistently been committed to respect for human rights and the dignity of the individual," continued the Foreign Minister.
The Foreign Minister announced that the Austrian chair of the International Holocaust Task Force (ITF), together with the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), was organising a Round Table at the Vienna Hofburg entitled "Lessons learnt? Holocaust remembrance and combating anti-semitism in 2008" to mark the 70th anniversary of the November pogroms. State Secretary Hans Winkler will participate in a commemoration ceremony to be held by the European Parliament on the evening of 10 November.
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