Saturday, June 28, 2008

Euro 2008 Finals Venue Hides a Sinister Past

Spielgel Inline - The dark chapter in the stadium's history began in 1934, three years after it was completed and christened the Prater Stadium. That May, Austria's fascist Chancellor Engelbert Dolfuss stood in the stadium and announced the country's new constitution, which abolished democracy in Austria and made it an authoritarian state.
In September 1939, the stadium would be put to darker uses. After having housed German soldiers, the stadium was requisitioned by the Gestapo to be used as a temporary prison for over 1,000 Jewish men.
While held there, the Austrian Jews were examined by Josef Wastl, who was then the head of the anthropology department of Vienna's Natural History Museum. The museum still holds hair samples, finger prints, photos and haunting plaster masks of the 440 detainees Wastl examined for his "Anthropology of Jews" report.
Within three weeks, the Jews would be transported by rail to the Buchenwald concentration camp. Of the 1,038 deported, 44 were released and only 26 survived.
Before World War II, Vienna's Jewish community numbered as many as 200,000 people and was at the time the second largest in Europe after Warsaw's. Today, a mere 7,500 Jews live there.

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