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Gillian Weintraub
Mixed Feelings Towards the City of Linz

As a grandchild of Holocaust Survivors, I find that I am constantly learning about the past of my family, most of whom I was robbed of the right to ever meet, by the Nazis. Both my Paternal Grandmother and Grandfather lost almost all of their family in the Holocaust. My Grandmother and Grandfather were witnesses to the greatest atrocity in history, as well as having witnessed the murder of members of their own family and friends.

However, their resilience of spirit allowed to them to move on from their horrible past, to become well-respected members of the Canadian and Jewish communities, and to continue the legacy of the Jewish people by having 3 children, 7 grandchildren, and so
far, 2 great-grandchildren.

Sadly, my Grandfather, a Partisan fighter during the Holocaust, passed away over 15 years ago. He was always hailed as a hero in my family. Much of the history that he witnessed, passed with him, as it has with so many other Survivors of the Holocaust. But, I continue my quest to learn more of my family history, in pieces, one of which was revealed to me recently.

In 2008, I began working at the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem, and was honoured to attend the plenary meeting of the International Task Force on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, as a Non-Government representative. The Plenary meeting was to take place in Linz.

Prior to leaving on the trip, I spoke with my Grandmother, and was shocked to learn that her, my grandfather and my father had spent over 2 years living in the DP camps outside of Linz.

As I was now traveling to the location where my grandparents and my father (who was born in 1946 in Czechoslovakia while my grandparents were attempting to leave Europe), I felt compelled to learn the history of the town, and see if anything was left of the DP camp where my family had spent 2 years living.

My grandparents, and infant father, arrived in Linz in 1946. They stayed for a year the run-down barracks of Wegscheid, just outside of Linz. After that, they were moved to apartments in the suburbs of Linz called Bindermichl, where they lived for almost 2 years while waiting for their Canadian immigration papers.

My family was able to leave Austria in 1948, making the long and difficult journey to Montreal, eventually settling in Toronto, Canada, where we have resided ever since.

I must admit my mixed feelings for the city of Linz. On one hand, the city was a refuge for my family, and thousands others, when they had nothing left, and no where to go. They were able to finally be free, and re-build their lives and their families.

However, had it not been for the Holocaust, they would have been living quietly and peacefully in their homes in Lithuania, with their families. Instead, they were run-down apartments and barracks. Thus, I am conflicted as to whether or not housing and feeding the fraction of remaining Jews after the Holocaust is enough to make up for Austria’s role in the war, and the killing of the 6 million Jews, including hundreds of my family members.

Over 60 years later, on my visit to Linz, which included a visit to the former concentration camp, Mauthausen, I can still see the hatred that the Austrians felt for the Jewish people. I saw teenagers walking through the camp, after having just seen the gas chambers, pull out their cell phones, to text their friends, having no regard at all for what they had just seen. There was no remorse, no feeling and hardly even a second of reflection. It was merely a history lesson to them, with no faces, families, or true people attached to the message. Reminiscent of what I would have expected the behavior was like of the Austrian and German teenagers of the 1940s, they left laughing and giggling, showing no regard at all for what they had witnessed.

On my trip, I also visited Mauthausen’s former satellite camp, Gusen. I was horrified to learn that the camp had been completely been bulldozed by the Austrians right after World War II, so that the land could be sold to families to create a quiet suburb of Linz. There was no consideration given to the fact that the town had been a killing ground, with a crematorium in the middle. Even more frightening is the fact that the Austrian Government still refuses to open up some of the remaining sites of the Gusen camp. Despite repeated requests to have it opened, it is sealed up, a true testament to the fact that Austria is still unable to take full responsibility for its role in the Holocaust.

Unfortunately, racism, hatred and anti-semitism all still exist in this world. The lessons of the Holocaust have not been fully disseminated, and when they are, they go largely ignored. Each day there are more and more incidents of violence against Israel and the Jewish people.

Although I have mixed feelings towards the city of Linz, my grandmother who lived through the horrors of the Holocaust, does not. She has happy memories of the time they spent in Linz, as it was the first time in years that she felt free. She remembers raising her son. She remembers being able to go and get supplies and food, and not having to worry about where their next meal would come from. She remembers being optimistic about their future. And, she speaks about meeting life-long friends at Bindermichl.

Sadly, though, the human witnesses to the Holocaust, and its aftermath, are dwindling. With them, much of the history and facts will be lost, as well. Therefore, it is imperative that the City of Linz, as well as the rest of Europe, continue to permanently mark those sites where the atrocities of the Nazis were committed. All sites relating to the Holocaust, including those that may not have seemed significant to others like the DP camps, need to be marked, visited, and used as teaching tools, in order to prevent such an atrocity from being committed again to ANY nation.

Gillian Weintraub is a third generation Holocaust survivor. She graduated from Law School in 1996. She currently is the Events Director of the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem and dedicates herself to Holocaust commemoration and education.