“Remember the days of old, Consider the years of ages past; Ask your father, he will inform you, Your elders, they will tell you” Deuteronomy 32:7 (The Israel Bible™)
The president of Austria on Monday admitted his country’s responsibility in the Holocaust during an official state visit.
“Austria bears shared responsibility for the Holocaust,” said President Van der Bellen. “Many Austrian citizens took part, and we bow our heads in memory of the victims in humility and respect. We admitted our shared responsibility too late and that caused problems in our relations at the beginning.”
During the tour, Rivlin made clear that “antisemitism is not disappearing. It is raising its head across the world, and even more so in the last year.
“In your own country, there were some 50 antisemitic incidents last year, some of which are being investigated by the police,” he continued.
Yet, he said that it was Austria that led European support for the EU’s statement against antisemitism. This statement stresses the importance of education for Holocaust memory, and calls on governments to take steps to ensure the safety of their Jewish communities, organisations and citizens. It would be a tragedy if Jews were afraid to express their beliefs in Europe. The statement also calls on other states to adopt the new definition, in full, of antisemitism issued by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). Austria and 11 other European countries have already done so.
“The way to stamp out antisemitism has two elements – taking responsibility for the past and an uncompromising fight against any hint or act of antisemitism or xenophobia of any kind,” Rivlin said.
The visit and the comments are strikingly relevant less than two weeks after International Holocaust Awareness day and amid multiple reports of escalating levels of antisemitism.
A report published by the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs on January 27, for example, revealed record high levels of antisemitism on the streets and online in 2018. Likewise, the year saw the highest number of Jews murdered in antisemitic attacks since the 1992 and 1995 attacks on the Argentinian Jewish community. Thirteen Jews were killed last year in three separate incidents worldwide.
Also according to the report, Jews in the United States were subject to 58% of all hate crimes perpetrated on the basis of religion. In France, there was a 69% rise in antisemitic incidents. And in Germany, the first half of 2018 saw a significant rise in antisemitic incidents over the first six months of 2017, with 893 incidents recorded in that period, comprising 61.5% of antisemitic incidents for the year of 2017.
“The campaign against antisemitism is not a Jewish issue,” Rivlin concluded. “This is a battle that all humanity must fight, together.”