Austrian Government Announces Plan to Combat Antisemitism Following Assault on Jewish Leader
Austria’s government announced a “roadmap” to combat rising antisemitism in the country on Friday, with measures that will include a new department in the Chancellor’s office to confront the problem and an offer of Austrian citizenship to the descendants of Jews expelled during the Nazi era.
The plan was announced following a meeting in the southern city of Graz between Chancellery Minister Karoline Edtstadler and Elie Rosen — the head of the local Jewish community who was physically assaulted by an Islamist last weekend, a few days after he cautioned against the atmosphere of “left-wing and anti-Israel antisemitism” in Graz.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Edtstadler said that the attack on Rosen had spurred her into action.
“That is why there will be a corresponding staff unit [to combat antisemitism] in the Federal Chancellery from 2021, which I will be entrusted with,” she explained.
A new platform is also being created for the reporting of “antisemitic and anti-Zionist incidents.”
Expressing the desire for better statistical reporting of antisemitism, Edtstadler commented that “many incidents are not reported out of shame, perhaps because one has already come to terms with the fact that something like this happens when it shouldn’t.”
As a “gesture of reconciliation,” Edtstadler confirmed that the descendants of Austrian Jews expelled by the Nazis would be offered citizenship of the country without having to give up their existing passports.
She said she had spoken with Austrian Holocaust survivors who told her they wanted “their children and grandchildren to have Austrian citizenship, even if they may now live in other countries around the world.”
Applications for citizenship would be accepted “from September 1,” she added.
Rosen said he welcomed the government’s measures, while at the same time expressing regret that the attack on him had, along with other antisemitic incidents in Graz, caused “immeasurable damage to the reputation of the city of Graz in the Jewish world.”
He reiterated his commitment to a continued Jewish presence in Austria, declaring that “Graz and Austria have Jewish life: we must not allow ourselves to be pushed into the role of victim.”
“It is about the positive,” Rosen said. “To continue work and to fully support an active Jewish community in Austria.”