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Published: March 5th 2007
Friday February 24, 2007 - Our German teacher, Herr Sulzgruber, thought it would be good to take our class on a tour of Wiener Neustadt. He is an officer in the Austrian army and has also written several books on Wiener Neustadt and its past.
We started our tour at the Reckturm. It means Rack Tower in engish. It was built used as storage of torture equipment in the beginning of the 13th century. It is the nothwest corner of the original city limits and next to it are some of the old remaining walls of that limit. Today the Reckturm acts as a private museum housing a collection of a few of the old torture devices along with a private collection of WWI and WWII weapons.
After the Reckturm, we went to the Domplatz (Cathedral place). This cathedral was built in 1297 and refurbished many times, but almost completely rebuilt after the second world war. We went upstairs in the right tower and could see the entire city of Wiener Neustadt. We also saw the huge bells that ring every hour.
Finally, because of Herr Sulzgruber's military standing, we were allowed inside of the military academy. It
was origianlly a castle built in the 13th century and then was expanded in the 15th century to house the Habsburg emperor Frederick III. Austrian Emporer Maximilian I was born here and is also burried in this building. It also had to be almost completely rebuilt after the second world war.
As we walked from site to site on our tour, I was practicing my german even more by asking Herr Sulzgruber about the history of Wiener Neustadt, especially during WWII.
Wiener Neustadt was the most heavily bombed city in all of Austria. The Americans bombed this city because of its industrial capabilities to produce planes and bombs. All but 5 buildings in the city were almost completely destroyed.
Today, out by my dorm building, there is still an industrial park, but there is a lot of empty land where buildings obviously once stood. There is also a flying school about a 5 minute walk away from my dorm room. Another interesting sight from my dorm room window is what used to be a satelite concentration camp. Before WWII, Wiener Neustadt had a Jewish population of about 700. Herr Sulzgruber said, "Today, there are probably less than
In a center part of town, there is a building that only a handfull of Wiener Neustadt residents truly know the history of. It used to be Jewish Villas where about 50 people lived. During WWII, it was raided and turned into a headquarters for the Gestapo. Today, it serves as a kindergarden. Most people don't know about it because no one spreads the word about what it used to be. The Austrians want to move on from the war. It was a terrible time and no one wants to bring it up again.
I feel very fortunate to have a teacher like Herr Sulzgruber show us around the city like he did. I could not have asked for a more intelligent person about the subject. Sometimes I feel hesitant about asking questions regarding the war since it was my country that destroyed this city. Herr Sulzgruber told me that it is no problem at all to ask questions about it and people have no grudges against americans for it. They are happy that we came to help and are willing to talk about what happened. They are just extremely somber about the subject. Herr Sulzgruber said,
"It was a very, very dark part of our history".
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