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Auschwitz survivor asks Austrians to remember the past

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Auschwitz survivor asks Austrians to remember the past
Photo: Paul Gillingwater
12:08 CET+01:00
A holocaust survivor has issued an appeal - now going viral - to young people in Austria urging them to think carefully about who they vote for in the upcoming presidential election, to stop history from repeating itself.

Gertrude was only 16 years old when she and her family were deported to Auschwitz with her parents and her two younger brothers. Her entire family was killed in the Nazi camp - only she survived.

Now she is watching with horror as "populists" once again appeal to "the lowest in people" - referring to Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ).

In a rerun of the Austrian presidential elections, FPÖ candidate Norbert Hofer, 45, is running against former Green party leader and rival candidate Alexander Van der Bellen, 72.

Gertrude, who is now 89 years old, was especially critical of FPÖ party chairman Heinz-Christian Strache, who reportedly suggested that refugees and immigrants could bring Austria to "civil war".

The holocaust survivor said she witnessed a civil war as a seven-year-old.

 

Gertrude said it reminded her of how the Viennese back then had laughed when Jews had to clean the city's streets. 

Gertrude warns: "People cannot always complain, and then when there is an election choose not to vote." She explained that at the same time, one must consider exactly who to choose and what an elected politician would do with the vote.

Gertrude appealed to youngsters in particular: "For me it is probably my last elections, but young people still have their whole life in front of them."

Van der Bellen published Gertrude's appeal on social media, where it quickly went viral. At the time of writing, it had over 2 million views, 1,700 comments and over 49,000 shares on one platform alone.

According to reports and social media, Hofer’s election posters have frequently been defaced with Nazi symbols including swastikas and Hitler-like toothbrush moustaches, as well as stickers reading "I hate Nazis" (in English).

Yet last week, the far-right contrasted a poster of Van der Bellen with famous images of Hitler. On the poster, Van der Bellen can be seen leaning against a fence against an Alpine background looking down at his dog.

The FPÖ compared it with  famous pictures of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, who also frequently posed with his German shepherd Blondi at his mountainside retreat of Obersalzberg - known in English as the Eagle’s Nest.

Hofer and Van der Bellen are facing off in a second-round vote after a court ordered a rerun after irregularities in postal voting.

A renewed vote was originally scheduled on 2nd October, but was postponed again to 4th December after adhesive seals on postal votes were found to have come unstuck.

Van der Bellen beat Hofer in the second round by just 31,000 votes, but those elections were annulled by the court after Hofer complained about said anomalies in the counting of postal votes.  

Story courtesy of Central European News. 

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BELOW IS A TRANSCRIPT OF THE VIDEO TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH

GERTRUDE, AGED 89, PENSIONER FROM VIENNA
 
The... the humiliation of others, the demonisation of others - that alarms me the most.
 
The complete disregard for others... the attempt to appeal to the lowest [aspects of humanity] in a nation and the attempt to bring forth the worst traits out of people - not the opposite, not the noble - only the worst.
 
We have already seen that scenario. Hate was instilled or actively brought forth in people... degrading and laughing at others. Like the Jews - they had to clean the streets. The Viennese - men, women and children - they stood by and laughed, "hahaha", at that. And exactly that [attitude, or trait of human nature] one is trying to reinvoke in people [today].
 
And that hurts; that is what I fear.
 
That slogan, "So wahr mir Gott helfe" - I was there and heard that in 1933, 1934. And that was said by a person who didn't think much of religion. I don't say that because I enjoyed hearing that [in the past and now again in the present]; but the fallacy of it has become apparent to me.
 
The [turning] point for me was when [H. C.] Strache started alluding to and using the phrase "civil war". I shuddered and I thought, 'that should not even be considered an option nor a consequence'. I saw civil war at the age of 7; I saw a dead body for the first time and, unfortunately, that was not the last time... yeah?
 
But, I have never been able to forget that. [That image] ingrained itself in me. To the extent that I still know [can see] it today.
 
And then, a politician says that a civil war would be possible?! That should surely not come to pass!
 
And then, I thought to myself, Van der Bellen is the one that would think and consider [before he acts], remain calm, stand for peace and equality. He would never even consider such a thing. Perhaps it's because of his age.
 
Maybe he's more mature and rational. I believe that is his big advantage [his big positive trait].
 
I cannot just sit at home, in my little [social] circle, talk big and proclaim, "I don't like this! And I don't like that!" And then, when there's an election, then I don't go [to cast my vote]!
 
That is counter-productive. I must exercise my right as a citizen. However, I have to carefully consider to whom I cast my vote [and the consequences]. And not, "yeah, he said something nice, so I'll vote for him". Instead, think of what he does with your vote and what could be the consequences.
 
And, in my opinion, in particular the young people should go vote. For me, this is probably the last election.
 
There's not much of a future left for me. But the young people have their whole lives ahead of them. And they are the ones that have to see that things go well for them into the future.
 
They can only do that if they apply reason and rational thinking to voting.
 
End caption:
 
Gertrude was 16 years old when she, her parents and her two younger brothers were deported to Auschwitz. Her entire family were killed. She is the sole survivor.

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