ARBEITSKREIS FUER HEIMAT-, DENKMAL- UND GESCHICHTSPFLEGE ST.GEORGEN/GUSEN
Plattform 75 JAHRE REPUBLIK
KZ Mauthausen-GUSEN Info-Pages
10th Anniversary of
Marcel Calloīs Beatification
Beatified October 4, 1987 (The Vatican)
* December 6, 1921 (Rennes, France)
+ March 19, 1945 (KZ Mauthausen-Gusen)
Thoughts of a young Austrian Lady
on Marcel Calloīs Beatification
"A LIGHT IN THE DARK"
by Siegi Witzany-Durda
Stepping out of the front door of my home in St.Georgen/Gusen
(Austria), I have always had a huge mountain of sand within
eyesight. Getting closer, one can even notice the remains of
concrete tunnel entrances that have not been used for decades.
For those who are familiar with our local history -
even with its dark periods - it is an outstanding place,
bloodstained, a place where ten thousands of innocent people
were brutally extinguished more than 50 years ago.
As inmates of Gusen Concentration Camp (a sub-camp of nearby
Mauthausen Concentration Camp) they were forced to hard labour
in a tunnel system of more than 25km. Under the most inhuman
conditions (extremely low food rations,
overcrowded accomodations fully dirty and louse-ridden,
constant beating and degradation) the SS had them build arms
and fighter planes for the "Endsieg" (final victory).
The toll these megalomaniac activities took -
the number of victims brutally murdered runs into ten thousands - still
makes me feel ashamed as a citizen of St.Georgen, although
none of my family was ever involved in any wartime-crimes.
The inmates were treated with the utmost contempt by their
slave drivers, who did not even consider them human beings;
they were referred to as "a pest" , as "worthless creatures" who
had to be erased.
Marcel Callo was among the terrified crowd of prisoners
exposed to the brutalities of the SS staff and to constant
terror. Being totally exhausted, they were all doomed to die
sooner or later.
Reading Marcelīs biography I was struck by the maturity
of a young man in his early twenties. This short, inconspicuous
Frenchman proved a charismatic figure with an amazing strength
and courage, defying the seemingly omnipotent regime of NAZI-
Numerous letters he wrote to his family and friends in France
and reports from eyewitnesses create the picture of a man
who was deeply rooted in his faith. That is the most obvious
source of his strength, apart from his family and the love
of his home-country.From the bottom of his heart he believed
that whatever might happen, he would forever be in Godīs loving arms.
When the NAZI-occupiers rounded up young Frenchmen for forced
labour in Germany, Marcel decided not to go underground to join
the Resistance Movement but felt a sense of mission to support
his fellowmen spiritually on the territory of the enemy.
Of course, he could not do much for them in a material sense,
though he is said to have shared his portion of soup with those
he felt pity for, but he always had a good word for others,
comforting them, trying to strengthen their will to survive
this horror, preventing them from giving up hope as a source
What is the message I got?
There is no denying that Marcel Calloīs helpfulness in a
situation where his own life was in constant danger,
where his own strength was diminishing, the sympathy
he felt for others and his sincere attempts to ease their
pains serve as a shining example to the following generations.
Sticking to the principles of humanity, he - in his very
personal way - resisted the NAZI-regime.
Above all, he was ready to share the fate of his fellow-
prisoners, to boost their courage and, if necessary,
to be with them until the end.
What more can you do?
There is no denying that the system of terror was successful
in destroying Marcel physically, but it could not destroy
the trace of light he left on a pitch-dark night-sky,
as real strength comes from your heart.
On October 4, exactly ten years after Marcel Calloīs
beatification, the area of the former Gusen extermination
camps and the St.Georgen site (BERGKRISTALL tunnel installations)
were populated with pilgrims from France, Germany, Hungary
and Austria. They had come
- Keep an open eye and heart at what is going on around you.
In our time when egoism and seclusion are current trends this advice may
sound a contradiction to peopleīs urge for enjoyment. "Take" ,
not "give" is a current motto.
Still, I believe a sensitive perception and awareness of the lives
of others makes your own life richer and happier.
- Put your life on a reliable basis
in terms of spirituality and human relationships.
It will prove a solid foundation in times of trouble,
which in human life are simply unavoidable.
- No matter where life puts you you can be a light to others.
I am proud of the fact that the Community of St.Georgen
decided to name a future commemorational path after
Marcel Callo. What a touching moment when the street sign
was lifted with members of Marcelīs family present,
as well as an international audience of pilgrims,
including the local population.
As a 37-year-old Austrian citizen and as a guide
in the former Mauthausen Concentration Camp I do not feel guilty
for what happened in my country more than 5o years ago, but I strongly
feel we have inherited a legacy and the obligation never to let it
- to commemorate an outstanding victim of 2nd World War
brutality as well as fellow-victims
- to exchange words of reconciliation between former "enemies"
- to meet under conditions of mutual understanding