In my second or third month in Innsbruck, I was driven home by a new colleague after a party, and while we were waiting for a traffic light to turn, I noticed a small sign which said “KZ Mahnmal (memorial) Reichenau.”
Me: Was there a concentration camp in Innsbruck??
Colleague: I DON’T LIKE JEWS.
Well, that colleague turned out to be a good friend, and a bit of a human project for me, gently bringing her around to being open to the idea that maybe all the stuff she heard growing up (that the rich American Jews were making endless demands on poor Europe, all those reparations for their vacation cruises, they didn’t want to see that we all suffered, yadda yadda yadda) might not have been the whole truth.
Much later, I went back to that sign and followed the arrow to this stone memorial, on the outskirts of town and on what is now property belonging to the town waste management services (trash and recycling center.) It reads:
Here stood, in the years 1941-1945
the Gestapo transit camp “Reichenau”
where patriots from all Nazi-occupied lands
were interned and tortured.
Many of them died here.
I don’t have any numbers but I’m willing to bet that very few Innsbruckers even know that this memorial exists.
Update — here is some more information gleaned from Wikipedia.de: the camp was created for the use of the Gau Tirol/Vorarlberg, for the rehabilitation of persons deemed guilty of refusing to work, skipping work or otherwise shirking their duties into useful civilians, “through strict discipline and hard work.”
As the war progressed, more and more political prisoners were taken there. From 1943 on it was used as a transit camp for Jews deported from northern Italy.
A total of 8,500 persons were interned at the KZ Reichenau, 130 of whom were murdered or died from inhumane treatment.
>Thank you. I have been trying to find a picture of some sort about that camp for months! A friend of mine who was imprisoned there died a few years ago, leaving me her papers to turn into a biography…she always referred to Reichenau as being in Austria but everyone else has been insisting that it was a sub-camp of one of the concentration camps in Poland (probably because she was Polish). Anyhow, your picture of the monument proves differently.