Austria’s pathetic view of the loss of Jewish culture, not the murder of Jews
In March 1938, the people of Austria welcomed Nazi Germany into the country, an event known as the Anschluss. Eight months later, on November 9-10, 1938, Germans and Austrians routed the Jewish community in Vienna and the Austrian Jewish community, which had stood at close to 200,000 people, was on its way to extinction.
- 62 synagogues destroyed
- Thousands of Jewish stores looted and destroyed
- Hundreds of Jewish cemeteries vandalized
- 6,000 Jews sent to Dachau Concentration Camp
- Jews blamed for the pogrom and were fined to pay for the cleanup
Over the next seven years, 65,000 Jews from Vienna would be murdered. Around 130,000 Austrians would flee or be expelled. By the end of World War II, the Jewish community stood at a few hundred people.
For the next several decades, Austria chose to consider itself a victim of Nazi aggression rather than an abettor to its crimes against humanity. In the 1980s and 1990s, Austria began to re-examine its role with the Nazis due to its interest in joining the European Union and from the “Waldheim Affair”.
Austrian Kurt Waldheim served as the Secretary General for the United Nations from 1972 to 1981, and then as president of Austria from 1986 to 1992. In 1985, an investigation revealed that Waldheim was complicit in Nazi war crimes. Austria elected him any way, but the country began to examine its involvement in permitting the Holocaust to take place in Austria.
Beginning in 1989, the Municipality of Vienna and the Government of Austria invited the Austrian Jews who survived the Holocaust to return to visit Vienna. It partnered with a new agency called the “Jewish Welcome Service” to acknowledge “[Austria’s] historical and moral responsibilities” in enabling the Holocaust.
The video below was shot at one such event in 2013. Taken at the Rathaus, the grand municipal building in Vienna, government officials addressed the 60 Jews that decided to return to their city of birth 70+ years after they escaped. Some of the survivors brought children and grandchildren in the hope of showing their families their heritage, and in anticipation of hearing an apology from the governments of Vienna and Austria. The apology would never come.
The speech from the minister from Vienna is about 8 minutes long. Please watch it in its entirety and note what is said and not said:
- Vienna bemoans its loss of Jewish culture, making the city the victim, not Jews
- No comment on the murder of Jews
- No comment on the theft of Jewish property
- No comment on the vandalism and degrading treatment of Jews
- Citizens of Austria were considered Nazis, not the Austrian government itself
- The Nazis and Austrian citizens that participated in the destruction of the Jewish community are simply referred to as “criminals”
- There is no apology from the government official about the Austrian government’s direct involvement in the Holocaust
Imagine that an organization goes through the effort of flying in dozens of elderly survivors, and then does not give them their due apology. The Austrian government emphasized the culture that Vienna lost from expelling and exterminating Jews.
Here is the essence of what the Austrian government said to Jewish Holocaust survivors over the week stay: “Hey Jews! Welcome back to Vienna. Isn’t it a beautiful city, rich in culture? It would have been great to benefit from your Jewish cultural contribution over these past decades, but that last generation was pretty stupid.
“We’re a new generation of Austrians. We’re not criminals. We’re a nice welcoming government. Hey, we’ve flown you all in to see your hometown! We hope you enjoy your stay.”
- No apology for the actions of the Austrian government.
- No apology for the Nuremberg Laws.
- No apology for stripping Jews of their citizenship, their property, their dignity.
- No apology for sending them to concentration camps.
- No apology for murdering their families.
That is Austria today. Playing the victim to an audience of Holocaust survivors.
Vienna in 1938: http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005452
Jewish Welcome Service: http://www.jewish-welcome.at/