This is important

The impressive portraits by the German-Italian photographer Luigi Toscano of surviving victims of Nazi atrocities on Vienna’s Ringstrasse were damaged three times during their showing in Vienna.   In these pictures Luigi Toscano confronts us with large-scale versions of the faces of contemporary witnesses, survivors of the Holocaust, with eyes that look directly at you, serious eyes, but also smiling eyes.  The eyes of people who have lived through the worst of times, people who can tell what it was like being in a concentration camp, people who have seen family and friends starved, beaten, murdered.

Two of Luigi Toscano´s impressive portraits of Holocaust survivors, as they stood on the last day of the exhibition

The photo exhibition “Against Oblivion”  was prominently placed, directly on the Ringstraße  in front of Heldenplatz (“Heroes’ Square”) and was on view until this morning.  It will now travel on to other European cities.  The impressive large portraits are printed on translucent fabric, letting light and background shine through.  They are powerful. They are also fragile. 

In the last few days of their showing in Vienna, some unidentified hateful individuals took a knife to some of these faces.     “What is the matter with Austria?!”, the photographer and many people rightly asked.  But the haters lost.  Many Viennese wanted to show: #wearenotlikethat, #sosindwirnicht, and #wirsindmehr .  

A scarred portrait surrounded by expressions of love. This is Susan Cernyak Spatz, born in Vienna in 1922. In 1942 she had to move to the ghetto Theresienstadt with her mother. From there she was deported to the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1943 and sent on the death march to the concentration camp Ravensbrück in January 1945. She survived and was freed by the Soviet Army in the spring of 1945.

People turned up to sew the damaged pictures together, hung up hearts with love messages, placed flowers in front of the portraits, and kept vigil  in front of the pictures night and day, until today’s dismantling of the exhibition.


The most beautiful thing about it: Christians, Muslims, people of all faiths, atheists were keeping  watch together to protect the memory of victims of the holocaust.  And I must not forget to mention the team of the Nesterval theatre troupe, whose members also took turn standing guard. I am so thankful to these caring and engaged young and not so young people who took time out of their busy lives to guard these valuable memorials.


Marcel D., born in Poland 1934, interned at the Ghetto Drohobycz in 1942, where the family hid to escape deportation. By bribing a warden the family was able to escape shortly before the ghetto was cleared. They found shelter with a Ukrainian family near their hometown together with nine other jews. They had to hide in a hole in the ground. They were freed by Soviet troups in 1944. After leaving the hole he had to learn to walk again.


“#Neveragain must not become an empty phrase – we have to live it daily!” – Alexander Van der Bellen, Austrian President

No, we will not forget.


More Information

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Memorial for Austrian victims of the Shoah



3 thoughts on “This is important

  1. Thank you Karinsvad for this blog and for your Instagram post where I made a more extensive and full comment. There is no place is a modern society for this hateful acts… ignorant, hateful, stupid, and most likely insecure individuals


  2. I saw this exhibit in Mainz, Germany, during a visit in May. It was very moving. While it is unthinkable that someone would destroy these images, it is very encouraging that many more people spoke up against the vandalism and united in protecting the installation!

    Liked by 1 person

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