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The College of Arts Sciences

Helen Wolfe Dunn speech at 2008 Holocaust memorial in Austria

July 10, 2017

Sam Seltzer '48, provided Jewish Studies with a video of a speech given in Vienna, 2008, by his late wife, Helen Wolfe Dunn, a Jewish child refugee of the Nazi period. She directed her brief remarks to high school students as part of a memorial program that included the Austrian Parliament. Helen, who was born in Vienna, came to the United States on the SS Bremen, one of the last ships to leave Europe before the War broke out.

In her remarks, Helen praises the students for grappling with Austria’s difficult history and inspires them with her concise insights about the responsibilities of the present toward the past and future.

My personal message goes to the youth of Austria who seem to have the incredible courage to study the history of their country and to take responsibility for atrocities for which they were not responsible....What is even more important is that today's young people are helped to make the connection between the acts of the past and the ramification of those acts for the present....What we have all learned from this horrific history, is that evil happens in increments, step by step...It is easy to stand in judgment of the past. It is much more difficult to look at the present with a moral lens to stand up and be counted in the face of prejudice and injustice. Today is about commemoration but it is also-- especially for our young people -- about being counted.

Her appearance was part of the remarkable Denk.Mal-Werke installation, one of several creative activities organized as part of the project “A Letter to the Stars” []. As its organizers had explained, for "Austria’s National Commemoration Day Against Violence and Racism in Remembrance of Victims of National Socialism, students from all over Austria will be constructing an elaborate and moving Holocaust memorial on Vienna’s Heldenplatz." Students' work from all over the country was exhibited at the event, whose slogan was "1938, Expelled; 2008 Welcomed." The students who organized this event specified that "This memorial will be dedicated to the more than 80,000 Austrians – Jews, political and religious dissidents, homosexuals, people with disabilities, Roma (gypsies), and other groups and individuals singled out by the Nazis for persecution and extermination – who were murdered in the Holocaust."

We honor Helen’s memory, and like her, we honor all people committed to learning, and acting on, the lessons of history. The video recording of her remarks can be found on the video archive page of our website.


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