Austrian youth meets Shoah survivors

An Austrian student who has spent a year working with Holocaust survivors in Britain says the experience has made “a huge impact” on him.

Philipp Engel, 19, has finished his stint with the London Jewish Cultural Centre's Holocaust and anti-racism education department as part of the Gedenkdienst (servants to memory) scheme.

Run in conjunction with the Austrian Commemorative Service, the scheme sends 20 young Austrians to work for a year at sites related to Holocaust education, as an alternative to compulsory national service.

Mr Engel, who has stayed in London to study European social and political studies at UCL, said it had been “amazing to work with the survivors. I’m so touched that I was able to meet these people. Their attitude towards life impressed me so much.

“I sometimes ask myself if I feel guilty because of the Austrian history. Even though it wasn’t my generation, I feel I have a responsibility to do something so that things like this never happen again.”

He added: “I’m also more aware of Jewish culture in general. It was really eye-opening.”

Austrian Ambassador Gabriele Matzner-Holzer attended a reception at the London Jewish Cultural Centre to welcome Lukas Stieger, who will take over from Mr Engel.

Dr Matzner-Holzer said: “The LJCC and the Austrian Holocaust survivors provide such invaluable personal experience and insights to young Austrians.

“This experience of having worked with Austrian survivors will have broadened their horizon and greatly influenced their world views.”

Last updated: 11:58am, October 15 2009