Vienna to memorialize Nazi army deserters

An undated picture shows German Nazi Chancellor Adolf Hitler (1rst row, 2nd R) attending a rally with high rank nazi officials including Admiral Karl Doenitz (2nd L), Chief of the German Police Heinrich Himmler (5th L), Austrian Nazi leader Arthur Seyss-Inquart and Hitler's Secretary Martin Bormann (R). Other Nazi dignitaries are not identified. AFP PHOTO / FRANCE PRESSE VOIR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images) AFP/Getty Images

VIENNA - Vienna will erect a memorial to honor deserters from Hitler's army, the city council said Wednesday.

The move was another move by Austria to confront its wartime past. Since the 1980s, the country has gone from denial to gradually acknowledging that it shares guilt for atrocities committed by Nazi Germany.

The Austria Press Agency reported that the decision was endorsed by the Socialist and Green parties, which form Vienna's municipal government coalition.

Austria's parliament already agreed to rehabilitate deserters criminalized by the Nazis for refusing to continue serving in the Third Reich's armed forces two years ago, and several German cities display memorials to Wehrmacht deserters.

Vienna Greens Party head David Ellensohn said those could serve as models for the Vienna project, to be erected by 2013.

Until the 1980s, Austrian history books suggested that Austria was a wartime victim because it was annexed by Nazi Germany. But the vast majority of Austrians voted for the "Anschluss"; more Austrians than Germans per capita were members of the Nazi party, and not only Hitler but some of his most notorious henchmen were Austrian.

In Mauthausen, Austria's most notorious Nazi concentration camp complex, about half the 200,000 inmates were shot, gassed or worked to death.

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