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“Never Forget”: 30th Anniversary of the Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service

AUSTRIA, August 31 - On 1 September 2022, the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg gave the opening speech at a ceremony in Parliament. The Memorial Service is a volunteer service that allows young Austrians to promote the remembrance of the victims of National Socialism and carry out associated awareness-raising and educational work abroad. 

In his speech, Foreign Minister Schallenberg highlighted the Memorial Service’s importance for Austria as a way to take responsibility for the crimes of National Socialism and the central role that all too many Austrians played. 

Remembering the Holocaust and fighting antisemitism – at the national, European and international level – are the highest priority for Austria. We are aware of our historical responsibility. The Memorial Service is one of the most important ways for us to express that responsibility, 

 said Foreign Minister Schallenberg.

The Austrian “Gedenkdiener” work at Holocaust memorials, museums and cultural organisations all around the world. Once the legal basis had been created by the National Council on 27 December 1991, the first Gedenkdiener was able to begin working at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum on 1 September 1992. Today, there are Gedenkdiener serving at more than 80 locations in over 40 countries.

In addition to the significance of the Memorial Service for Austria’s culture of remembrance, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg also emphasised its role for the next generation in Austria. Doing memorial work abroad, he said in his speech, allows young Austrians to understand the imperatives “never forget” and “never again” in a particularly striking way.

By serving at Holocaust remembrance sites worldwide, young Austrians learn – through direct, immediate experience – about the inexpressible crimes against humanity that were committed during the Holocaust. At the same time, as representatives of our country, they embody our future-oriented responsibility for these dark chapters of our history,

said Foreign Minister Schallenberg.

The Gedenkdiener are an important part of Austria’s efforts to make up for past injustices as much as possible. In addition, an amendment was passed in 2022 that entitles Holocaust survivors and their descendants to claim Austrian citizenship under certain conditions. Furthermore, Austria is an active member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). 

In order to support the Austrian Gedenkdiener abroad, the Foreign Ministry stays in close contact with them through its embassies. This also applies to people who are completing their service abroad in the social or peace service format.