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Friday, 18 May 2012

Nazi officer to remain at the Vienna Central Cemetery

The final resting place of German national socialist party member Walter Nowotny is one of Vienna’s most controversial graves. After reviewing a suggested removal of the grave, the Home Office has decided to let the grave remain at the Central Cemetery in Vienna.

After numerous desecrations, the grave of Nazi fighter pilot Nowotny was being considered for a move by the Austrian Home Office. Instead of deciding to move the grave they have now decided to provide new management for it instead.

The "Association for the Maintenance of the Grave of Walter Nowotny" will take over management of the grave on July 1st, according to Home Office spokesperson Karl-Heinz Grundböck. The association was founded in 2003 when Vienna removed the grave’s honorary status.

The then city councillor and present vice President of the regional government Johann Herzog (FPÖ) took part in the founding of the association. The present-day party secretary and federal councillor Hans-Jörg Jenewein has been an active member of the association since its creation.

The association loudly commemorates Nowotny on the anniversary of his death every year, and their celebrations have been questioned by the "Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance" (DÖW) – an organisation that deals with research concerning resistance and persecution from 1934 until 1945, exile, Nazi crimes, right wing extremism after 1945, and victims' reparations – because of their controversial nature.

Nowotny was born on the 7th of December in Gmünd in Lower Austria, and is counted as member number 6,382,781 of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) according to Berlin archives. Nowotny joined the party in 1938, when he was 17 years old. He died in 1944 when he was shot down by Americans.

According to the DÖW, Nowotny was honoured at his funeral as a "young leader of the Hitler Youth" who had "always placed his faith in the German leader."

Nowotny’s family and the FPÖ deny this, claiming him to be a "soldier that fulfilled his duty" instead. Herzog agrees, saying that the Nazis used Nowotny "as a means to an end." He does not think that the grave should be moved.

For the Home Office, leaving maintenance of a grave to a private association is not unheard of. It is one of around 700 military graves in Austria, and most of those graves are being taken care of by private organisations. The Home Office still funds the maintenance of the graves, since the War Graves Act dictates that the government must maintain graves of fallen soldiers. The maintenance costs for Nowotny’s grave is expected to be a few hundred Euros.

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