Austrian village faces down its Nazi past





Silbertal | The mayor of this tiny Alpine village, where Ernest Hemingway once skied down majestic slopes, has started an unprecedented project that most Austrians would rather forget: confronting the nation's Nazi past.
Mayor Willi Saly is intent on finding out whether there's anything in the historical record that would provide a clue to what drove a village farmer named Josef Vallaster to become one of the most brutal concentration camp guards of World War II. The records, which surfaced last summer, show that Vallaster was a mass murderer. The data say he participated in the deaths of 250,000 Jews at the Sobibor and Belzec death camps in Poland, and of 20,000 mentally and physically disabled persons at a clinic in Nartheim, Austria.

For Saly, 62, who has been mayor of this picturesque ski resort of 900 residents for 23 years, it makes no difference that Vallaster died 65 years ago or that the Austrian media has ignored his efforts.

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