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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 March 2008, 08:32 GMT
Austria remembers Nazi annexation
People light candles in Vienna on 12 March 2008
The sombre ceremony lit up Vienna's Heldenplatz
Austrians have held a candlelit vigil to mark their country's annexation by Nazi Germany 70 years ago.

They lit 80,000 candles in Vienna, representing the number of Austrian Jews and others killed by the Nazis.

Earlier, the president of Austria's parliament told MPs the country shared responsibility for the Nazis' crimes.

In 1938, huge crowds in Vienna celebrated the arrival of German troops and Hitler, who declared "Anschluss", or political union.

'We must never forget'

The candlelit vigil lit up Vienna's Heldenplatz - in the heart of the capital - on Wednesday night.

German police entering the Austrian city of Imst, 12 March 1938 (AP)
Enthusiastic crowds welcomed the German takeover in 1938

The organisers dubbed the ceremony "The Night of Silence" - in contrast with the enthusiasm of the welcome given to the German takeover at the time.

"So many bad things happened. We must never forget," Marcus Mor - one of the participants - was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

"We have to live with this and do something to make sure history never repeats itself," he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer told a joint session of parliament that "no compensation can ever diminish the wrong that the Nazis did to our Jewish fellow citizens".

Mr Gusenbauer also announced that the government would build a Simon Wiesenthal Centre in honour of the Nazi-hunter who died in 2005.

He told parliament that no pay-off could undo what had been done.

"I can only humbly beg survivors and their relatives to accept this gesture for what it is: a trifling acknowledgement of the injustice that was done to you," he said.

Victims or supporters?

On Tuesday, Vienna's Jewish community formally re-opened the Hakoah sports club complex which had been confiscated by the Nazis in 1938.

Symbol of Jewish sports club in Vienna

The previous day, Mr Gusenbauer opened an exhibition showing how Jewish staff of the State Opera were purged under Nazi rule.

The anniversary of the Anschluss has revived debate among Austrians about whether they were victims or supporters of the Third Reich.

Otto von Habsburg, 95, the son of Austria's last emperor, told a commemorative meeting that no state in Europe had "a greater right than Austria to call itself a victim".

But the president of the lower house of parliament, Barbara Prammer, told lawmakers that Austrians were complicit in Nazi crimes.

She said any suggestion that they had been forced to commit atrocities was a "fiction of history".

Country profile: Austria
05 Mar 08 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Austria
05 Mar 08 |  Country profiles

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