The Invitation Project
2008 – 70 years after the annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany in 1938 – we are extending an invitation to the Austrian Survivors of the Holocaust to return to visit Austria.
We are inviting the people who, beginning in March 1938, were persecuted, humiliated, and driven away from Austria or interned in concentration camps, to visit their old homeland.
250 Austrian Survivors who today live in the USA, Israel, South America, Great Britain and 30 other countries will visit Austria for one week and will be hosted by 250 schools throughout Austria.
The entire cost of the flight and hotel for the 250 guests plus their companions will be sponsored by the Republic of Austria, members of parliament, public institutions, and large corporations.
The organization of the flights as well as room, board, and other provisions will be carried out by the project team and their cooperating partners (for example the Austrian National Travel Agency). This means that neither the participants nor the hosts will have to make these arrangements.
The student hosts – each supported by a network of students, teachers, principals and parents from each school – will invite a person from the List of Survivors to come to Austria from 1 May – 8 May 2008.
Schools that have already been in contact with a Survivor through A Letter to the Stars in the past are encouraged to invite that person. Schools that are participating for the first time might want to invite a Survivor who attended their school or lived in the same region.
Each Survivor will be encouraged to bring a companion. In some cases this person will be a husband or wife, in some cases a son or daughter, and we hope that in many cases it will be a grandchild or great-grandchild the age of the Austrian students.
Our guests will be staying in hotels.
The student hosts and their support networks will spend as much time as possible with their guests during the week around the 5th of May 2008 (The Austrian National Commemorative Day Against Violence and Racism).
Travel to and from the Commemorative Event on 5 May 2008 on Heldenplatz in Vienna from anywhere in Austria will be free for all participants (both hosts and Survivors). This has been made possible through the support of the ÖBB (The Austrian Federal Railway) and the Viennese Transport Services.
- Every Survivor will be encouraged to visit his or her host’s school to speak with the students. These meetings will be documented on film. Each film will be archived and will be stored in a video databank entitled “The Last Witnesses.” This unique form of documentation will be made accessible to the public.
- At some point during the week the Survivors might want to visit the places of their youth with their hosts; for example their former homes, schools, and favorite places.
- Also, the hosts are encouraged invite the Survivors to visit them at home, tour their neighborhoods, visit museums, go to the theater or concerts, and find other ways to make their trip special.
Each participant’s itinerary will be personal and will be created in cooperation with the hosts and the project team before their trip.
A Letter to the Stars will also offer meaningful elective programming throughout the week for all participants.