AUSTRIA: Arnold Schwarzenegger, tolerance, and its shortfall
  in Austria. Mauthause

Nushin Namazi wrote: "In his speech in Israel, Schwarzenegger proclaimed that he wishes to promote tolerance around the world."  David Pike comments: That would include tolerance in Austria of texts that are critical of
Austria. In my recently published L'Enfer nazi en Autriche
, I point out that so far four of my books that recount the history of the Mauthausen concentration camp and its 49 subsidiaries throughout Austria are missing from the hundreds of books on display in the camp's bookstore, which is visited by up to 140,000 people a year. It was explained to me by a local resident that under Austrian law no book can refer by name to children of the SS. In my own case I refer by name to the eldest son of Mauthausen's Lagerkommandant, a doting father whose gift to his young Siegfried on his 14th birthday was to line up forty prisoners in a row so that the boy, in his Hitlerjugend uniform, could shoot them down one by one, as at a fair. The same local resident warned me that any book that showed Austrians in an unflattering light could also find itself excluded. Who in Austria wants to be reminded that, less than 100 days before the final capitulation of Nazi Germany, Austrian villagers were running to the assistance of the SS in hunting (i.e. killing on sight) the 500 Soviet officers who had succeeded in escaping from the camp in the mass breakout of February 1945? It is edifying, and salutary for an Austrian, to examine the registration numbers of the cars in Mauthausen's parking lot: very few are Austrian.

Friends who visit Mauthausen continue to inform me that my books remain excluded, so I asked Simon Wiesenthal, a longtime friend, if he would kindly take the matter up with the authorities in Vienna who control the bookstore in Mauthausen. This he did, at once, in an astonishing act of friendship, because it happened in the same week that his beloved wife Cyla was dying. The Austrian authorities replied at once, to him and to me, with assurances that this would be rectified at once. The only reason that the English edition had been excluded, wrote the official, was that the book was "too expensive", oblivious to the fact that the purpose of the bookstore at Mauthausen is not to sell books but to display them. Visitors to the camp presumably have to be protected from the very sight of books
above average price.

"I was born in Austria," said Schwarzenegger, "a place where intolerance and ignorance led to tragedy and heartache. Because of this I want to do what I can to promote tolerance around the world." If any WAISer in touch with the Governor would care to bring this matter to his attention, it would serve the double cause in Austria of promoting scholarship and encouraging introspection.

RH: I will see that this posting gets to the governor's office, But I doubt he will read it, since he is engaged in a budget battle. In his speeches he has been denouncing the "special interests", I thought that meant the various business lobbies, which had given him hefty contributions. But no. The special interests are labor unions and schoolteachers. It seems like Orwellian doublespeak.

Ronald Hilton 2004


last updated: February 10, 2005