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29 Jun 2018

Austrian president plants tree in Trostenets Memorial Complex

MINSK, 29 June (BelTA) - Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen and his wife planted a tree near the Gate of Memory monument on the grounds of the Trostenets Memorial Complex and paid tribute to the memory of the dead, BelTA has learned.

“Everyone knows about Auschwitz. This name is known all over the world. Unfortunately, until recently, few knew and remembered Maly Trostenets. But we will fix it. Perhaps the reason was that many did not like to remember, including the survivors and relatives of the victims. Our task is not to forget. Because it is part of the personal history of almost every one of us” Alexander van der Bellen said.

According to him, the planted tree is a symbolic “first stone” for the memorial that will be dedicated to the memory of the victims - Austrian citizens who lost their lives in the former death camp. Commemorative trips to the extermination camp have been organized since 2010. The book “In Memory of the Dead” dedicated to the events of those years was published in 2011. “The tree is a symbol of peace, a new beginning. Let it grow so that we remember about those events. It was not a labor camp. People were brought here to die, which is especially sad. In 1943-1944 when the Red Army was approaching, the Nazis decided to destroy the evidence and burned the bodies. Only 17 people survived,” Alexander van der Bellen said.

The foreign guests got acquainted with the exposition about the former death camp, took a tour of the complex. For some members of the delegation such as former Austrian President Heinz Fischer and his wife Margit, this place is closely connected with the family history. The current visit is an opportunity to see the memorial and remember the relatives.

Trostenets is one of the largest death camps set up by the Nazis to eliminate civilians in 1941-1944. According to historians, the death toll was 206,000 people: about 150,000 were shot, 56,000 prisoners were burned. Among them were residents of Belarus, Czechia, Poland, Austria, and Germany. The Belarusian cultural center of spiritual rebirth is collecting the documents and information about the victims, photos, stories of the witnesses and asks all who have materials about the Trostenets death camp to send them to the institution for the study and database.

The first stage of the complex and the memorial sculpture Gate of Memory was opened at the site of the former death camp on 22 June 2015. The Gate of Memory is a ten-meter bronze sculpture with figures of exhausted prisoners of the Nazi death camp. Their bodies are entangled in barbed wire, which symbolizes the inability to escape death. The sculpture has become the centerpiece of the memorial complex. The author is sculptor Konstantin Kostyuchenko. His work was selected during the national competition in 2010.

On both sides of the Memory Alley leading to the gate stand the granite slabs featuring the information about the places of mass extermination in the occupied territory of Belarus. Nearby are two railway cars that were used to bring prisoners to Trostenets.

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