August 31, 2016–
So Long, Richmond!
Each year, around 30 young Austrians are sent across the world, to represent Austria at Holocaust memorial museums and institutions. I arrived at the Virginia Holocaust Museum in September 2015, to assist in its mission of Holocaust education as Austrian Holocaust Memorial Servant. Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service (AHMS) is a recognized alternative to compulsory military service for males in Austria.
Initially, my decision to apply for this program came from the desire and longing to depart from my hometown, Vienna, and experience life overseas. Since I had lived in Vienna all my life, one could say, I was looking for a “change of scenery”. However, through involvement with the Austrian Service Abroad, I became more aware of Austria’s history and relationship with National Socialism. I learned of past crimes, which for decades had never been critically confronted with. I learned of a rich and vivid Jewish Community in Vienna, which had experienced a nearly complete destruction and never recovered from the events of WW2. And I learned of an Austria, which for many years had ignored its victims and did not assume any form responsibility. Although over the past few decades, the mindset for Holocaust Remembrance in Austria has steadily changed to the better, I believe there is still much work needed to improve Holocaust Education in Austria, as well as around the world. As such, I decided that completing an AHMS in Richmond is an endeavor that will be beneficial to not only myself, but also to the VHM and to my country, Austria. With my year of service at the VHM now concluded, my hope is to have made a valuable contribution to our mission of Holocaust Remembrance and Education.
I feel very fortunate to have met with survivors, teachers, students, visitors and many others in and outside of the Museum. I would also like to express my thanks to the staff, docents and everyone else involved with the Museum, for having welcomed me so warmly not too long ago and also for having provided me and other young Austrians with the opportunity of an AHMS at the VHM. Although I had been to Richmond and the United States before, this was my first experience of working and living in a foreign country. My year was full of firsts, novel experiences and new friendships, which I would not have had the pleasure of encountering in Austria. Through these experiences, I have grown and learned much and I’m truly grateful to have had this opportunity.
I’ve enjoyed my time in Richmond and the VHM immensely, and am sad to be leaving, but as a certain well-known Austrian once said, “I’ll be back!”
Anvesh at the start of his internship.
Anvesh and Clemantine Wamariya, Rwandan genocide Survivor and Human Rights Advocate.
Anvesh translating documents for teachers during our summer Teacher Education Institute.