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1 October 2020

Elias Kasper – the Neuberger’s latest Gedenkdiener

Elias Kasper shares his motivation for doing his Gedenkdienst at the Neuberger.

As an Austrian you probably know the word Gedenkdiener; but only probably. Therefore, a short explanation: a Gedenkdiener works for ten months in Austria or another place completing their civil service. For example, I work in Toronto at the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre.

Seal of Austrian Service Abroad

The organization, which gives me the chance to do this, is the Austrian Auslandsdienst. It was founded in 1992 by Dr. Andreas Maislinger as an alternative to Austria’s mandatory military service. The organization has placements all around the world; most of them are occupied with young people who work with Jewish community. 

Austrian Service Abroad has placements around the world, including two in Canada.

So, now you know, where I´m working, but not why.
Everybody should have heard of the Second World War. The Nazi era was characterized by a totalitarian regime that sought to global dominance and the annihilation of the Jewish people. The Gedenkdienst (commemoration service) works to remember the crimes of Nazism and to commemorate its victims.

I know, there are more cases of genocide but as an Austrian, I have a special responsibility to learn and educate about the Holocaust.

So, let´s go on.

To talk about every task is clearly impossible. But one of the tasks, before Covid-19, was working on the “Experience Jewish Vienna” trip organized in partnership with the Jewish Welcome Service in Vienna.

Another Gedenkdiener skilled in design and Photoshop, created graphics for online workshops and educational programs.

My work this year, until the office re-opens, deals mainly in developing online educational programs. The Neuberger offers “online programming”; one of which is a webinar, where you can learn about historical events. 

Why am I doing this?

Not everybody would say this, but for as long as I can remember I’ve liked history. As a child, I read books about the dinosaurs and the wild West. When I finally studied history in school, I loved it. The history from the 19th and 20th century became more interesting, than I´d ever thought. And, a dream for me was to leave my familiar area, not forever, but I always wanted to live somewhere else, where everything´s new.

So, the Auslandsdienst gave me possibility to combine my passion for history, act upon my responsibility has a young Austrian, and my dream to explore something new. I look forward to my 10 months at the Neuberger.

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Elias Kasper

Written byElias Kasper

Elias Kasper is from Voralberg, Austria and has been an active member of Auslandsdienst Austria for several years in preparation for his Gedenkdienst in Canada. He is a graduate of HTL Dornbirn, a higher technical teaching and research school in Austria. He looks forward to assisting the Neuberger’s educational programming.