The Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) and the Austrian Embassy in London held a joint commemoration this week to mark the 80th anniversary of the Anschluss. Michael Newman, CEO of the Association of Jewish Refugees, is a member of the UK Delegation to the IHRA.
The event, held on 13 March at the Austrian Ambassador’s residence, was attended by Sir Erich Reich – Chair of the Kindertransport specialist group of the AJR, Sir Eric Pickles – Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust issues and Head of the UK Delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, Markus Feurstein of the Claims Conference, and Hannah Lessing – Secretary General of the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism and Co-Head of the Austrian Delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Allaince, among others.
The Anschluss was the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany, and marked the beginning of seven years of persecution, exile or murder for Jewish and minority groups by the Nazi regime. A spokesperson for the Austrian Embassy said, “This catastrophe left Austria with a historic and moral responsibility – to never forget and to draw lessons for present times and future generations. This commemorative event is dedicated to the victims of Nazi persecution and to those working tirelessly to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive and to combat antisemitism and discrimination.”
Speakers included Kindertransport refugee Harry Bibring BEM and two volunteers who are serving at major Holocaust institutions as an alternative to Austria’s compulsory military service. The evening concluded with a musical performance by the Mahler Quartet.
Sir Erich Reich said, “We will never forget our tragic and catastrophic history and find ourselves alarmed and concerned at the wave of populism and nationalism taking grip in Europe and elsewhere and the consequences this will have for those who, like us 80 years ago, are similarly oppressed and turned away today.
Precisely because of this, we share a commitment to remembering the victims and stand together to ensure that the lessons of the Holocaust and the dangers of racism, intolerance and antisemitism are properly taught and effectively countered. This is our duty and a fitting legacy to the memory of those who perished because of the Anschluss.”