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Vienna subway remembers city’s apartment concentration camps

(JTA) – Austria’s largest urban transport firm for the first time commemorated the Holocaust, in a subway art installation in memory of hundreds of victims who lived as prisoners on a single street. The Wiener Linien installation unveiled Oct. 19 at the Herminengasse, or Herminen Alley, station features a graphic scheme in which each identified victim who had lived on that alley is represented by a black line, stretching through a visual representation of its 21 buildings to Nazi death camps across Europe. In the research that preceded the making of the installation, historians tallied victims who were forced into shared dwellings on Herminengasse, including hundreds not previously identified.

“Looking at this place is staring at the abyss of the Nazi death machine,” said Tina Walzer, a historian who for the past year researched for the Wiener Linien the names of all the Holocaust victims who lived on Herminengasse, a small street inside Vienna’s 2nd District that once was part of the city’s Jewish ghetto. Forcing Jews into the alley in Vienna’s 2nd District exemplifies the public nature of the persecution of Jews in Austria, she said. In Germany and other countries, by contrast, the Nazi authorities took steps to limit the general population’s exposure to the persecution. “Two houses on the street were mini-concentration camps, where Jews were kept in crowded conditions inside apartments until they were taken away one day on a lorry,” Walzer said. “This all happened publicly, at daytime, on a street where also many non-Jews lived. Everybody saw what was going on.”

The Jews imprisoned at Herminengasse were taken to the Aspangbanhof train station, where more than 40,000 of them were loaded onto trains and transported to death camps. The former train station, where city authorities last month unveiled another monument for the deported, was surrounded by residential buildings. Residents could see the deportations from their windows. Using police records and other archives, Walzer’s research team added hundreds of hitherto-unidentified victims to the company’s initial list of 700 unknown victims. More than 65,000 Austrian Jews died in the ghettos and concentration camps of Eastern Europe.

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