The population census in 1934 counted 176 034 Jewish citizens living in Vienna which corresponded to 9,1% of the total population in Austria’s capital. 7 years later a mere 9000, nearly 0,6 % remained. The Jewish community of Vienna was devastated and nearly eradicated. But who were the victims of the destructiveness of the fascist regime? The association “Steine der Erinnerung” – “Stones of Remembrance” was founded to give the nameless a name, to revive the forgotten but also to commemorate those murdered and abducted. The aim of the organisation is to display the injustice done. Metal tiles called Stones of Remembrance were set in sidewalks in front of houses where Jewish citizens once lived. The project was a private initiative which started in 2005.
How it all began
The founding member, Elisabeth David-HIndler was not aware of her Jewish background for a large part of her life. The discovery of her family history caused a major change of perception in her life. She began to identify and dedicate herself to Judaism and felt the unjust her ancestors felt. She received a letter from her Israeli uncle who fled in 1934 at the age of 15: “I would like to have a commemorative plaque on my parents’ house in Porzellangasse 49. Please take care of it” was the brief request.
Ms David-Hindler agreed and got straight to work facing challenges very soon. Since the house owners refused to attach signs on the facade, she had to find a new way. Her uncle told her about Gunter Demnigs “Stolpersteine” which was a German project with the same goal but avoiding the house owners’ lack of cooperation. Instead of mounting plaques on the facades, brass tiles were set into the sidewalks at the victims’ addresses. This could also work in Vienna.
Fighting the unjust and the forgetting
David-Hindler did all the research needed to execute her uncle’s wish and found support from her partner. As an engineer, he crafted the tiles/stones and the municipality of Alsergrund took care of the legal arrangements. Setting the stone for her grandparents was just the beginning of Elisabeth Ben-Hindler’s mission. Friends and family joined her to press ahead with this project. Over the years, countless Stones of Remembrance were set raising awareness for the atrocities of the time.
Stones of Remembrance in “Neubau”
The seventh Viennese district was closely linked with Judaism prior to the Nazi crimes. Before 1934 14,8 percent of the population in the seventh district “Neubau” were Jewish. Our goal is to remember the victims of the National Socialism and take an active stand. Through intensive research in cooperation with Mr Thomas Kreuz, owner of WauWau Pepper-mills, we were able to compile a list of departed citizens who once lived in Westbahnstrasse. As a next step, Stones of Remembrance have been set in the sidewalks to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and to prevent the forgetting. The official ceremony took place 1 October 2017 in Westbahnstrasse and was accompanied by music and art installations. www.steinedererinnerung.at