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Never forget - Sculpture commemorating the victims of the Nazi regime

Never Forget

In memory of the victims of the Nazi regime, Flughafen Wien AG has erected the "Never Forget" memorial with artist Arik Brauer

"The memorial 'Never Forget' is intended to commemorate the numerous victims of the Nazi regime and their ordeals suffered at the site of today's airport. With this, Flughafen Wien AG wants to make a visible commitment to coming to terms with this terrible time and thus make a contribution to dealing with this history. Because something like this must never happen again," said the two Flughafen Wien Management Board members, Mag. Julian Jäger and Dr. Günther Ofner.

Memorial of concentration camp prisoner with propeller near Terminal 3

Forced laborers and concentration camp prisoners at Schwechat-Heidfeld air base

From 1943 onwards, field offices of the Mauthausen concentration camp were built on the site of the air base.

Historical background

After the annexation of Austria to the German Reich in May 1938, the Schwechat-Heidfeld air base is established on the site of the present airport.
Two years later, the construction of an SS barracks takes place on the site.
In the following years, the Heinkel aircraft plants are relocated from Rostock to Schwechat-Heidfeld. The need for labor was great and so two concentration camps were built as outposts of the Mauthausen concentration camp on what is now the airport site - also known as "Schwechat II".

From 1943 to 1945, 2,656 concentration camp prisoners, 3,170 foreign forced laborers, 900 prisoners of war and 5,500 domestic workers toiled seven days a week at the site. The prisoners had to work 12.5 hours per day and usually received only one meal. Treatment and rations differed according to racial origin, while the conditions of the concentration camp prisoners were all equally inhumane and survival rates were very low. Sleeping places were scarce, clothes were allowed to be changed at most once a week. In addition, there was cruel harassment on a daily basis. The survival time of a concentration camp prisoner was short and was at most three to five months.

With the advance of the Soviet army from March 1945, the surviving concentration camp prisoners had to start the "death march" to Mauthausen on foot. Those who could no longer continue on the route were shot immediately.

About the memorial: "Never forget"

A concentration camp prisoner carries a bent airplane propeller on his shoulders. The expression on his face is suffering, but not degrading. For there is nothing that can take away a person's dignity, says Arik Brauer. The damaged shape of the propeller symbolizes the tragedy of the event and is meant to remind us of the millions of lives that were driven to certain death by the Nazis. In doing so, the posture of the arms in combination with the propeller is reminiscent of the Christian depiction of Jesus carrying his cross. The sculpture stands framed between two brick portals modeled on those at the entrance to the Mauthausen concentration camp, explains Eduard Neversal, the architect responsible for the scenario.

The monument, which weighs around 220 kilograms and has an internal steel frame, was cast using the classic lost-wax bronze casting process. The propeller is a damaged original part of the Heinkel type fighter-bomber that crashed into the Baltic Sea in 1945.

The artist: Arik Brauer

Arik Brauer achieved international fame as an Austrian painter, graphic artist, stage designer, singer, and poet, and is considered a co-founder of Fantastic Realism. This versatility represents a constant unity of his work and life, which is supported by a humane idealism.

Arik Brauer was born in Vienna in 1929, the child of Jewish emigrants. His childhood marked by National Socialism, Arik Brauer survives in hiding. Arik Brauer's father is murdered by the Nazis in the Dachau concentration camp. From 1946 to 1951 Brauer receives a classical, artistic education at the Academy in Vienna by the renowned painter, Paris von Gütersloh. Arik Brauer becomes internationally known within this association of artists.

As a counter-position to the dominant abstract painting, the group in the fifties ties to the earlier classical surrealism. Influenced by the pictorial worlds of Pieter Breughel and Hieronymus Bosch, Brauer created a pictorial cosmos that unfolded between Old Master technique and fantastic realism. The first major retrospective of Brauer's work took place in 1979. Much acclaimed exhibitions follow throughout the world.

The universal artist died in 2021 at the age of 92 in the presence of his family.

Gießerei Mikic

Art founders Peter Wiener and Slavko Mikic are responsible for the bronze casting.

"I am grateful to be able to cast such a great work of art, by such a great artist. It is a pity that he is no longer with us," said artist Peter Wiener.

Owner of the art foundry Slavko Mikic: "I see in art casting the possibility to help the beauty of works of art with the durability of bronze to a unique quality. I see the challenges that arise anew with each order as an incentive and driving force to continue perfecting every step of the work."