(photo credit: )
An 80-year-old British Holocaust survivor unveiled a memorial at a school in Vienna on Wednesday in commemoration of more than 70 Jewish students expelled by the Nazis in 1938.
Harry Bibring, who was born in Vienna in December 1925 and now lives near London, was just 12 years old when he and dozens of other students were forced to leave the Amerling Gymnasium in April 1938 because of their religion.
Speaking in German to a small crowd of mostly students and teachers Wednesday afternoon, Bibring, who lost both his parents during the Holocaust, said he felt it was important to keep talking about the past.
Bibring survived the Holocaust because he was part of the "Kindertransport" that sent 10,000 Jewish children from Austria, Czechoslovakia and Germany to Great Britain in 1939. He became a British citizen in 1949, and later worked as an engineer in both industry and academia.
"I think it's so important to tell schools my story because I don't think we've learned anything yet," said Bibring, who also speaks to students in Britain about his experience.
"Unfortunately, later in life, I saw Rwanda, I saw Yugoslavia, I saw Bosnia and many other countries where people were killed for baseless reasons," he added.
The idea for the memorial - a metallic plaque inscribed with a poem - came into being last year when Bibring visited his former school for the first time.
Over the course of the past school year, it was brought to life by a high school class with the help of their teacher, Eva Burghart, who said her great grandmother died in a concentration camp.
The class of mostly 17-year-olds looked through old school records for names of those who had been expelled. They then tried their best to track down information about them, Burghart said.
Livia Kubelka, one of the students involved in the project whose mother helped design the memorial, said the main aim was to find out what happened to the former students, all boys, after they were forced to leave.
While they were able to track down information about quite a few, the fate of many others remains a mystery, Kubelka said.
"We're thinking of all people who, like us, were at this school and who were killed because of unmeasurable intolerance and stupidity and we honor all those who survived despite the great danger and who today can tell us about these terrible things," Kubelka said during the unveiling ceremony, which also included a somber musical interlude.
After Bibring unveiled the memorial, students filed past it and placed slips of paper with the names of the expelled students into a glass dish below it.
During his brief speech, Bibring, his hands clasped together, told of the fate of one former classmate, Friedrich Schatz, who was shot dead by the SS on a Vienna street at the age of 17, along with his father.
"When you hear things like that, it touches you. You tell yourself how lucky you are," Bibring said.