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Escape into death

Jan 27, 2023 | JMW News

On International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, 2023, the Simon Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies in Vienna, the Jewish Museum Vienna, the Austrian Jewish Museum in Eisenstadt and the Jewish Museum Hohenems are commemorating the more than 1,000 persecuted Viennese Jewish women and men who fled to their deaths by taking their own lives before they could be annihilated by the National Socialists.
As part of a symposium on November 8, 2021, the names of these people were publicly read out in a moving event on Vienna’s Judenplatz. The recording of this name reading can be found here.
The joint symposium of Misrachi Austria, the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) and the Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance (DÖW) not only commemorated the more than 1,000 Viennese Jewish women and men who, faced with a hopeless situation during the Nazi era, decided for suicide as their last self-chosen action. A series of lectures focused on this topic, which had long remained taboo and hushed up, from a historical, psychological and halakhic perspective.
At the end of the symposium – held under the auspices of the Federal President of the Republic of Austria, Alexander Van der Bellen – the names of those people who put an end to their lives were read aloud in front of the Memorial to the Austrian Jewish Victims of the Shoah; the remembrance turned into stone thus resounded with an echo.
Several dozen people took part in the more than 90-minute reading of the names, which was recorded with audio and video.
The video was commissioned by the organizers in the hope that the recording of this act of remembrance and commemoration (whether in image, sound or both) will continue to be used in the future in connection with exhibitions, memorial and commemorative events, but also in history, philosophy and ethics lessons in schools. Moreover, the intention was to inscribe the remembrance of all those Jewish women and men who chose suicide during the Nazi reign into the memory of the Nazi era and the Shoah.
Concept: Nekhmja Gang (Mizrachi), Éva Kovács
Artistic consultation: Zsuzsi Flohr and Felicitas Heimann-Jelinek
Link to the publication of the articles