“NAZIS LIVE IN COMFORTABLE HOUSES; THEIR VICTIMS LIVE
IN DIRTY BARRACKS”. The space and practice of the 1945 protest.
a contribution to the book: Stamm, Kerstin; Stoffel, Patrick (Ed.):
»Europa. Eine Fallgeschichte!«, Berlin, 2016. p. 27–46.
Six months after liberation from Nazi rule, some one hundred “displaced persons”
protested in Linz, Upper Austria. The demonstration of those once persecuted
by the regime – in “Hitler’s hometown,” no less – hints at an epic that
spans to the present day. Demands voiced by the Jewish survivors invoking
their right to a decent life are echoed in the situation of 21st century refugees.
The no man’s land “between the legal system and life” befalling people who,
for whatever reason, are seen as non-integrable, offers no protection. Given
that they are forced to live in a near endless state of emergency, Europe must
ask itself whether it is enough to relegate refugees in refugee camps, boat- or
shipping container people to a space that affords them no rights and drives
them to the margins of the law. Europe calls itself a “space of freedom, security
Europe in ruins: continuation or new beginning?
This story begins in June 1945, in Brunnlitz, Czechoslovakia; Nachum, freed
by the Russian army, began his journey home. He told me about the part of his
life that will run like a red thread through this text, and which throws Europe’s
abyss into compelling relief. A belief that the Third Reich’s annihilation-frenzy
was over – that the nightmare of forcibly-deported masses and millions of
dead bodies littered throughout Europe would come to an end – was held by
many who had only narrowly escaped this fate.
Nachum was no exception. He wanted to see his parents, two sisters and
brother in Krakow, but couldn’t even recognize the city from the train station.
All the young Pole found were signatures on German postcards, mass mailings
with forged greetings from his loved ones. In truth, his family was sent to
the Belzec death camp in 1942 and murdered; Nachum is the only one who
survived. “I could not find a place, I could not find myself there,” he says of his
inability to return to the world of yesterday.
Nachum heard it was possible to emigrate from camps in postwar Austria
to Australia, America or Palestine, and left Poland only one month later. He
and a friend arrived in Linz in the summer of 1945.
Linz, an “Open City”
Even a city that moderate National Socialists bloodlessly ceded to the U.S
Army (they declared it an “open city” shortly before the Reich’s capitulation)
did not emerge from seven years of Nazi rule unscathed. On the day of the
“Austrian Anschluss,” Linz saluted allegiance to the Reich and promptly renamed
its main square “Adolf-Hitler-Platz”. Hitler’s speech on the night of
March 12, 1938 was celebrated as the return of the city’s “prodigal son,” he
spent ten years of his youth in Linz and in the bordering town of Leonding.
It was also here that two other leading war criminals – men who played
a significant role in the mass murder of millions of people – met in school:
Eichmann, who organized the Jewish deportations, and his future superior
Kaltenbrunner, who as head of the Reich Security Main Office made decisions …
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