March 2, 2020
This Sunday, a special event marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp by the American army, took place on the grounds of the camp which now serve as a museum. A march and memorial ceremony, initiated by Limmud FSU, honored one of camp’s most noted survivors – the famed Austrian Jewish Nazi hunter and writer, Simon Wiesenthal.
Wiesenthal’s granddaughter, Racheli Kreisberg, was the event’s guest of honor, and had come from Israel for her first visit at the site. She led a march that started from the hospital building where her grandfather was incarcerated in the infamous camp, where for seven years, some 200,000 people from 28 nationalities were brutally murdered by the Nazis.
Participating in the march were young Jewish adults from all over Europe, taking part in the annual Limmud FSU Europe event which took place this year in Vienna. The group walked in silence, memorial candles in hand, through the camp gates to a memorial located on one of the cliffs at the outskirts of the camp, dedicated to the 33,000 Jewish victims of Mauthausen.
The procession was led by Kreisberg, New York philanthropist and Limmud FSU Chairman Matthew Bronfman, chief cantor of Vienna Shmuel Barzilai, Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler, founder of Elie Wiesel’s archive Dr. Joel Rappel and World Zionist Organization Representative in the UK, Izchak Sonnenschein.
“My grandfather had arrived at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Feb 1945. This was the last station of the death march, at which he was forced. Upon his arrival he was too weak and ill to work in the stone quarries and therefore he was sent to the so-called camp hospital, the place to die.”, Kreisberg told the participants during her speech at the memorial ceremony, “But against all odds he survived, weighing 35 kg, and at the age of 39 was faced with the devastating questions of so many survivors: where is my family? who else has survived? how will I restart my lives?
”Bronfman quoting Wiesenthal said: “For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing.” He added, “Looking at the picturesque villages on these beautiful hills, one cannot truly comprehend, how is it possible that so many chose to stand on the side-lines of history, doing nothing, saying nothing. This is one of the most important lessons that we can learn and do everything in our power to educate future generations. This is the same lesson that Simon Wiesenthal dedicated his life to - never stand aside while injustice is taking place. Always take sides, and never be afraid to speak out and condemn evil.
”At the end of the emotional ceremony, Kreisberg, fighting back her tears, received an award in memory of her grandfather’s heroic actions. In concluding the ceremony, Chesler said, “We of Limmud FSU are proud to commemorate and honor this great man’s life’s work in his pursuit of Nazi criminals war and his single-minded devotion to tracking them down and exposing their evil actions."
Photos courtesy of Yevhen Zavhorodnii.