Austria commemorates 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom

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Austria on Wednesday commemorated the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom, which set the stage for the massacre of Jews during the Holocaust.

Ceremonies for what was also known as the Night of Broken Glass were held throughout the day around Austria, including candle-lit processions, minutes of silence, film screenings, readings and prayers.

The Jewish community in Vienna also held gatherings at the former Aspang train station, from which tens of thousands of Jews were deported to concentration camps and death camps during World War II, and in front of the former homes and shops of many Viennese Jews in 1938.

In southern Graz, music and readings were planned at the synagogue, which was burnt down in the night of November 9-10, 1938 and reopened 11 years ago exactly.

The Vienna Opera's music director Franz Welser-Moest also spoke in front of several hundred people, including former deportees and resistance fighters in the northern town of Wels.

The pogrom night of November 9-10, 1938 in Germany and Austria gave a taste of what was to come with synagogues burnt down and Jewish shops looted and destroyed in a blaze of anti-Semitic feeling.

Now infamous pictures show Viennese Jews forced to scrub the pavements with their toothbrush.

In 1938, the year when Adolf Hitler's Germany annexed Austria, the Jewish population of Vienna still topped 200,000 people, according to city data.

By May 1939, some 130,000 Jews had left what was once a glowing Austrian community, with major contributions to the arts, culture, science and politics.

© 2011 AFP

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