Die letzten Zeugen - Das Buc



Diese Geschichte wurde im Projekt "3808 - Einladung" erstellt.

"We all love happy endings."

After 70 years Eva Kollisch visits her old school in Baden.

I couldn't help but marvel again how my little dark old school with its 400 or so students, all girls, had turned into this handsome, completely renovated and expanded building with a huge student body, both boys and girls, of 2000. There was a cafeteria, a library, a computer room, bright-lit class rooms, and students with their book bags sitting or lounging on the floor of the large lobby, eating lunch- "hanging out."
I compared the bright women teachers I met, who were so self-assured and democratic in style, with our mostly sour, stern, inhibited women teachers at the Lycee long ago.  Of the men, I had contact with only two. One had listened to my talk sitting in back of me. I think he had to leave for a class before it ended, but he sent me an appreciative note about afterwards and some wonderful poems, written by him, dedicated to Sophie and Hans Scholl – the teen-aged German student resisters who were executed by the Nazis. Then there was the Director who took us to lunch– a gallant and jovial gentleman-- not a trace of the old authoritarian schoolmasters who had headed such schools in my youth.  

My old childhood classmate who had been invited, arrived -- Gretl, whom I had only really gotten to know and become close friends with about ten years ago. She was beaming and looked very dignified in a dark suit and silk scarf. We walked about the building a bit, accompanied by one of the teachers.  "Eva," Gretl said, grabbing my arm and leading me out into the courtyard, "can you imagine it, can you grasp it?" By this she meant the changes in the school and in us –two old women walking arm in arm among these children and teenagers who were everywhere and eyed us shyly, as we tried to conjure up our past selves in blue frocks and white collars, and our old school with its Gothic windows and dark arched corridors.
About my class presentation:  I talked to three different groups of 15 - 17-year-olds, altogether for about three hours, with one of the English teachers sitting by my side to help me out, in case I couldn't hear what was being said or couldn't understand some current idiom.
 I tried to tell each group that I had lived in Baden as a child and described some of my and my family's experiences of anti-Semitism, before and after the Anschluss.
I said what we all say and feel -- certainly all of us who have come on this trip -- that their generation was not "guilty " but had the "responsibility" -- for the present and the future to be watchful --so as not to act out in some other form (e.g. towards immigrants) persecution and exclusion.
I told them that this is the responsibility of all young people everywhere – and apologized  that we had left them such a precarious, embattled, hate-ridden world.  
I didn't want them to think that they were being singled out, so I told them of an incident that happened in the U.S.-- at Duke University, North Carolina.
There was a large demonstration at the university, protesting China's suppression of Tibet.There were American and Tibetan student protesters on one side and Chinese students on the other. There was much antagonistic yelling at each other. Then a young Chinese female freshman said: "Instead of yelling abuse, why don't we try to talk to each other?" This made the Chinese students very angry, they threatened her and drove her away. They posted her name and photo on the internet. She and her parents had to go into hiding. ...
I gave this as an example of how fascist emotion and potential violence can arise anywhere anytime where there is factionalism, nationalism, sectarianism– if nurtured sufficiently by a totalitarian state or party.
I couldn't tell what the students in front of me were thinking. There was no response, but many of them looked almost frightened.
When I spoke about "outsiders" and asked if any of them had ever experienced being on the outside, one boy first seemed to say that he had, but then changed his mind to say that he was really on the "inside."
I asked for questions or comments -- about anything. The questions were very "safe," mostly about where I had lived in Baden and how I felt about Austria (Baden) now?
They wanted to hear something nice and soothing; they would have liked me to say that I loved Austria and Baden again. I fully understood their feelings. We all love happy endings. But this story about the country of my birth and the persecution and expulsion I experienced, can only be told by me with a mixture of ambivalence, bitterness, and moments of insight-- when I realize that we -- victims and perpetrators -- were all human beings, caught up in a terrible moment of history.
Yet, in a way, this trip was as close to a "happy ending," as I've come to in my l visits to Vienna and Baden over the past years. I met strangers on the streets of Vienna who, even after they knew who I was, were charming and helpful. And I avoided others, on whom I saw or thought I saw the sour look of old Nazis. The public honors paid to us at the Parliament and the Heldenplatz were an impotant gesture of goodwill and restitution. But it was the young organizers of the trip, the volunteers for 'Letter to the Stars," who will always remain in my memory. and I thank them for their openness, their idealism, their sympathy, tand heir eagerness to make us happy. They chose to make up for some of their countrymen's unspeakable crimes under the Nazis -- in a time long before they were born-- with compassion and humanity. They could be and are a model for young peacemakers everywhere. They fill me with hope.

Home > Die Letzten Zeugen > Eva Kollisch