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New memorial in Vienna commemorates Jewish victims of Nazism

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By AFP  with Euronews
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The Shoah Wall of Names Memorial carries the name of every Austrian Jew murdered by the Nazis.
The Shoah Wall of Names Memorial carries the name of every Austrian Jew murdered by the Nazis.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Lisa Leutner

Austria has unveiled a new memorial in central Vienna to more than 64,000 victims of the Nazi regime.

A "Wall of Names" -- made up of 160 oval granite memorial stones -- now covers an area of 2,500 square metres in a park.

An accompanying plaque also honours other victims who suffered persecution before and during World War II.

The Austrian government says the memorial will be a "tangible symbol of its responsibility" for the murder of 64,450 Jews.

"The names are indelibly engraved," Constitution Minister Karoline Edtstadler said in a statement ahead of the ceremony on Tuesday.

Its unveiling takes place exactly 83 years after Kristallnacht (the Night of the Broken Glass) -- the mass pogrom of Jews in Germany and annexed Austria in 1938.

Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg and the President of Vienna's Jewish community, Oskar Deutsch, attended the opening, alongside Israel's Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai.

"We looked away for too long until we realised our role as perpetrators of the crimes and the historical responsibility that comes with it," Schallenberg said.

"83 years ago today, the systematic persecution, dispossession, and extermination of Jewish life in Austria by the Nazi regime reached a tragic low point," Edtstadler added on Twitter.

"It is the responsibility of us all to ensure that these atrocities are never forgotten."

Before World War II, there were around 192,000 Jews in Austria, almost 4% of the population.

The new project was co-financed by the Austrian government and was launched by Holocaust survivor Kurt Yakov Tutter, who fled Vienna in 1939 with his family.

Hannah Lessing, Secretary-General of the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism, told Euronews the memorial was inspired by personal stories.

"Here we now have a place in the middle of Vienna, where descendants can go and touch the names of those killed in the Shoah (Holocaust)," Lessing said.

"When a young person crosses this area and sees more than 64,000 names, it touches your heart."

"You start asking who were they, what happened to them, and each name you see there is a world that was killed."

Click on the player above to watch the full interview.