Mauthausen Concentration Camp: Scouts and Guides Remember Holocaust Victims and Spread a Message of Peace
More than 7000 guests attended this year’s remembrance ceremony at Mauthausen Concentration Camp near Linz in Austria, commemorating the 72nd anniversary of the liberation in May 1945. Among them once again a large delegation of Guides and Scouts of Pfadfinder und Pfadfinderinnen Österreichs (PPÖ, the Scouts and Guides of Austria) from local groups in Vienna, Tirol, Upper-Austria and Lower-Austria.
The motto of this year’s ceremony was “Internationality unites”, an "important aspect of the work of the Scout Movement and of growing importance of today’s societies, where nationalism is growing", according to Isabella Steger, from PPÖ's delegation.
Part of the ceremonies was a joint remembrance walk of members of all present youth associations from the quarry via the so-called death stairs (“Mauthausener Todesstiege”) to the Youth Memorial, where representatives of the Austrian National Youth Council (OBJR) addressed the guessed: “It is our duty to remember!”, appealed the Council’s chairperson Julia Herr, underlining that "nobody should ever forget the atrocities children, young people, adults and their families encountered during the Holocaust".
Once again, survivors of Mauthausen Concentration Camp were among the many guests, easily recognisable in their distinctive striped “uniforms” they had been forced to wear during their imprisonment. Their sheer presence and courage to return to the venues were they had lived the worst nightmares of their lives was a moving element of the ceremonies. Many of them shedding tears as they remembered friends and paid respects to all those who had not survived the terror.
“Every year, the events in Mauthausen provides us Scouts and Guides with a welcome opportunity to realise that there are also Guides and Scouts among the many, many inmates and victims of Mauthausen and its subsidiary concentration camps,” comments Isabella Steger. “We are also proud to have our own remembrance ceremony at the Memorial for Scouts and Guides in Mauthausen.” For the Guides and Scouts, remembering also includes being actively involved in contributing to creating peace and a better world, where all people are treated equally.
Again present this year was a large delegation of Scouts and Guides from Związek Harcerstwa Polskiego (ZHP, the Polish Scouting and Guiding Association) who joined the remembrance cermeonies in Austria for the sixth time. Over a period of three days they paid their respects to tens of thousands of Poles who had been imprisoned and tormented in Mauthausen and its 49 (!) subsidiary camps during World War II. "You must not forget that children, adolescents, men and women from Poland accounted for 25% of all prisoners and were the largest national group among the prison population," explains Tomasz Fliszkiewicz, member of the National Council of ZHP and Head of this year’s delegation of the Polish Scouts and Guides.
The Polish Scouts and Guides noted that the anniversary ceremonies at the different sites of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Mauthausen, Gusen, Spital am Pyhrn and Ebensee were somewhat different from those commemorating the victims of World War II in Poland. “Here in Austria, the emphasis of the commemoration services is on the triumph of life over death," comments Tomasz Fliszkiewicz, adding that “the focus is the ultimate victory of righteousness and justice. What prevails, is joy and the strong affirmation that such terrible acts of extermination, directed by one nation against another, shall never happen again.”
Images: PPÖ & ZHP 2017
Contributing to the text: Isabella Steger (PPÖ) and Tomasz Fliszkiewicz (ZHP)