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Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service
The Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service (German: "Gedenkdienst") is an alternative to Austria's compulsory national military service. Its participants serve at major Holocaust memorial institutions.
The Gedenkdienst was founded by Andreas Maislinger, a political scientist from Innsbruck (Tyrol, Austria) who adopted the idea from the German Action for Reconciliation (Aktion Suehnezeichen). Maislinger himself had worked as a volunteer at the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum, where the idea of the Gedenkdienst program was born.
In 1991 the required legislation was enacted by the Austrian Government and Andreas Maislinger began organizing what became known as the Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service, an independent, though largely government-funded foundation. The intent of the Gedenkdienst is to recognize Austria's part of the collective responsibility for the Holocaust and the responsibility of each and every one of us to ensure that it "never again" happens (quote from the speech of the former Austrian chancellor Franz Vranitzky, Jerusalem, June 1993).
The Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service is a unique international network that provides assistance to Holocaust-related archives and museums. Since 1992 there have been about 150 Gedenkdienst interns, mostly in their 20s, working to study and preserve Holocaust history in lieu of military service back home.
The Austrian Association for Service Abroad is the main body of the organization and authorized by the Austrian Government to send Gedenkdienst interns to partner organizations worldwide.
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