Away from the hor­rors

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS -

the same time be­cause read­ing about the Holo­caust and learn­ing about it in school is dif­fer­ent [to] talk­ing to a Holo­caust sur­vivor.”

An un­der­stand­ing that his will be per­haps the last gen­er­a­tion to ben­e­fit from the di­rect tes­ti­mony of Holo­caust sur­vivors is one of the driv­ing forces be­hind his govern­ment’s com­mit­ment to build a new Holo­caust me­mo­rial in Vi­enna, the Chan­cel­lor says.

The new Wall of Names, first pro­posed by the French philoso­pher Bernard-Henri Lévy in Fe­bru­ary, will fea­ture the names of 66,000 Jewish vic­tims of Na­tional So­cial­ism. A date for the start of con­struc­tion has yet to be an­nounced.

His govern­ment will also al­ter Aus­tria’s na­tion­al­ity law, al­low­ing the chil­dren and grand­chil­dren of Holo­caust sur­vivors who were forced to leave Aus­tria be­fore May 9, 1945 due to Nazi per­se­cu­tion to reac­quire the cit­i­zen­ship that was stolen from them. The process for amend­ing the na­tion­al­ity law has be­gun, although there is no cur­rent im­ple­men­ta­tion date.

Since he burst onto the na­tional po­lit­i­cal scene in 2011 as Aus­tria’s State Sec­re­tary for In­te­gra­tion, Mr Kurz — then aged just 25 — has cul­ti­vated and main­tained good re­la­tions with the coun­try’s Jewish com­mu­nity and its pres­i­dent, Oskar Deutsch. But nei­ther his poli­cies on Holo­caust com­mem­o­ra­tion, nor his dec­la­ra­tion in June that the se­cu­rity of the State of Is­rael is Aus­tria’s rai­son d’état (“na­tional in­ter­est”) has al­tered the Jewish com­mu­nity’s de­ci­sion to boycott his coali­tion’s ju­nior part­ner, the far-right Free­dom Party.

Founded in 1955 by for­mer Nazi func­tionar­ies, the Free­dom Party has since the 1980s rep­re­sented the far-right na­tion­al­ist camp in Aus­trian pol­i­tics. The Mau­thausen Com­mit­tee, which mon­i­tors an­tisemitism in Aus­tria, re­ported in July that in­ci­dents of “far­right ex­trem­ism” in­side the party have in­creased since it en­tered govern­ment.

Mr Deutsch says the Free­dom Party is the “po­lit­i­cal arm” of the coun­try’s greater Ger­man na­tion­al­ist fra­ter­ni­ties, the Burschen­schaften, which he calls “the suc­ces­sors to the pre­de­ces­sors of the Nazis.” He later added in the Jewish com­mu­nity’s mag­a­zine Wina that while Mr Kurz and most of his cen­tre-right Peo­ple’s Party un­der­stood Aus­trian his­tory and stand against ev­ery form of an­tisemitism, the Free­dom Party did not.

In a well-re­ceived speech to the Amer­i­can Jewish Com­mit­tee Global Fo­rum in Jerusalem in June, Mr Kurz said that to learn from the Holo­caust meant to ac­tively pro­tect the rule of law and Aus­trian democ­racy, and to fight each and ev­ery kind of ex­trem­ism and in­tol­er­ance. Asked by the JC, Mr Kurz says he does not see a con­tra­dic­tion be­tween this pledge and his de­ci­sion to form a coali­tion with the The for­mer Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camp at Mau­thausen is now a me­mo­rial

Free­dom Party, which he said was the prod­uct of free and fair demo­cratic elec­tions.

“We have to be hon­est and state that Nazis were in­volved in all Aus­trian par­ties af­ter the Sec­ond World War: in the Free­dom Party, in the So­cial­ist Party, and also in my party,” he says, point­ing

to the far-right party’s de­ci­sion to es­tab­lish a his­tor­i­cal com­mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate its past in that re­spect.

He adds that Free­dom Party leader Heinz-Chris­tian Stra­che, since last De­cem­ber his Vice Chan­cel­lor, es­tab­lished a zero tol­er­ance pol­icy for an­tisemitism sev­eral years ago, some­thing he con­sid­ers “ex­tremely im­por­tant”.

Mr Kurz ac­cepts the Jewish com­mu­nity’s de­ci­sion not to co­op­er­ate with Free­dom Party min­is­ters and adds it is that party’s job to work to al­le­vi­ate Mr Deutsch and the Jewish com­mu­nity’s con­cerns. He dis­agrees, how­ever, with Deutsch’s re­marks about the fra­ter­ni­ties.

“I’m al­ways care­ful in gen­er­al­is­ing things. There are peo­ple with very prob­lem­atic back­grounds and an­tisemitic ideas among those Burschen­schaften but on the other hand I think it would be a big mis­take to say ev­ery­body in these Burschen­schaften thinks that way.”

Re­gard­ing that trip to Is­rael in June, Mr Kurz toes the Euro­pean line by say­ing any fu­ture de­ci­sion about the lo­ca­tion of Aus­tria’s em­bassy —cur­rently in Ra­mat Gan — would not be taken un­til a two-state po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion for Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans was found.

As mem­bers of the Jewish com­mu­nity and its friends and al­lies gather in Vi­enna and else­where on Novem­ber 9 to mark Kristall­nacht’s an­niver­sary, two as­ser­tions key to Holo­caust com­mem­o­ra­tion in Aus­tria will be in­voked over and over: Nie wieder! Niemals vergessen!—never again, never for­get.

For Aus­tria’s chan­cel­lor, these words and Aus­tria’s his­tor­i­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity mean “not only to look back but also to be ac­tive in the present.”

“For me, this means, first, that we have to fight all kinds of an­tisemitism: the still ex­ist­ing one and also the newly-im­ported one. Sec­ond, it means that we have to ac­tively sup­port Jewish life and guar­an­tee the se­cu­rity of Jewish com­mu­ni­ties.”

“And third,” the chan­cel­lor con­cludes, “we also have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to­wards Is­rael—the Jewish state of Is­rael.

“Sup­port for the se­cu­rity needs of the coun­try are a rai­son d’état for us in Aus­tria.”

Grant cit­i­zen­ship to the chil­dren and grand­chil­dren of Holo­caust vic­tims ’ Mis­take to say all fra­ter­ni­ties in Aus­tria have mem­bers with an­tisemitic back­grounds’

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