Austria’s surprising turnaround
Austria long portrayed itself as the first victim of Nazi aggression after its native son, Adolf Hitler, annexed the country in 1938. But the country is changing.
Eric Frey, the editor of the country’s leading daily Der Standard and Or Chadasch Progressive Jewish community in Vienna, gives the country an A grade in coming to terms with its Nazi past and its engagement with modern Jewry.
Austria is working to honor its memory of the Holocaust. It has revamped its school curriculum. It is endorsing the restitution of art and property. It supports survivors. The current chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, traveled in the spring of 2018 to Israel and stated that Austria has “historic responsibility” in the Holocaust. In August of this year, a new law allowed descendants of the 120,000 Jewish refugees to apply for Austrian citizenship.
In the words of Eric Frey, 2021 represents an excellent time to be Jewish in Austria. The government is committed not only to facing up to its Nazi guilt, but it also wants to revive both the memory of the important Jewish contribution to the country in the past – and allow a revitalized Jewish community to thrive. Vienna today has both old and new Jewish points of interest throughout the city. Definitely worth a visit when travel is safe and open again.