Jewish Austrian Historian Stephan Templ Says Prison Authorities Denying Him Kosher Food
Austrian historian and writer Stephan Templ said his prison guards denied him kosher food and demanded that he prove his Jewishness during the first week of his one-year prison sentence.
Templ told the Austrian Kurier newspaper that on top of being denied the foods appropriate to a kosher diet, he had to contact his girlfriend to provide proof from the organized Jewish Community in Vienna as to his Jewish identity.
According to the English-language Local press, Austrian prison law dictates that the Jewish Community in Vienna must officially recognize all Jewish prisoners as members in order for their religious identity to be accepted by the authorities. Templ, whose main residence is Prague, had not provided that official recognition.
The Austrian writer began a one-year sentence on Monday over charges that he defrauded the state in a property restitution application, in which he failed to include an estranged relative. Not ironically, Templ has written extensively about the Austrian appropriation of Jewish property during and after Nazi occupation in World War II; he has called his punishment “completely absurd.”
Last month, some 75 prominent scholars of the Holocaust and antisemitism sent a letter to Austria’s U.S. embassy decrying the Austrian authorities’ intervention in the Templ case, which they said should have been settled in civil court.
“The Austrian government’s decision to intervene by prosecuting and jailing Mr. Templ will be seen as an extreme overreaction to Mr. Templ’s important book, Our Vienna: Aryanization Austrian-Style, which criticized Austria’s policy concerning the restitution of Jewish property,” the wrote, asking Austrian President Heinz Fischer to reconsider Templ’s sentence.