Record Rise in Antisemitic Incidents Reported in Austria
Austria reported a record number of antisemitic incidents during 2021 according to a new report released on Friday, providing further confirmation of the upward trend in anti-Jewish acts globally.
The statistics, compiled by the Jewish Community of Vienna, recorded 965 incidents in 2021 — the highest number since the organization began documenting antisemitic outrages 20 years ago. The figure represents an increase of 65 percent over the previous year, when there were 585 recorded incidents.
About 15,000 Jews live in Austria, the majority of them in Vienna.
Only one percent of the incidents involved violent assaults or attempted assaults, while 10 percent involved damage or desecration of Jewish property. The majority of the incidents (60 percent) involved offenders making threats, with a further 27 percent involving the distribution of antisemitic literature and messages.
Many of the incidents were connected to the State of Israel, with a surge last May during the conflict with the Hamas terror group in Gaza. “The force with which this happened in spring 2021 left even Austria’s resilient Jewish community shocked,” the report pointed out.
“There were almost daily reports of cases where people became the target for abuse, threats and physical assaults. Mostly, those affected were recognizably Jewish — mainly because of their clothing or symbols that are Jewish or believed to be Jewish; nevertheless, it is precisely in this group of victims that we observe some reluctance to report or prosecute incidents. It must therefore be assumed that there is a significantly higher number of unreported cases.”
A further 30 percent of the incidents related to the antisemitic conspiracy theories that mushroomed around the COVID-19 pandemic. The report emphasized that the “fact that, over the course of the last 18 months, right-wing extremism in Austria has been largely associated with coronavirus protests should not divert attention from the fact that the movement continues to be potentially very dangerous in other ways as well. For example, it should be noted that in the last 18 months several weapons stores specifically attributed to neo-Nazi groups were discovered, with investigations reaching as far as Germany.”
Benjamin Nägele — general secretary of the Jewish Community in Vienna — said in a statement accompanying the report that the “two main drivers for the rise in antisemitic incidents in the year 2021 were right-wing extremists participating in the demonstrations against the Corona measures as well as antisemitic demonstrations pretending to be criticizing the state of Israel.”
He continued: “Additionally, there is an increasing number of community members who are willing to report such incidents providing us with a clearer understanding of the dimension regarding antisemitic cases in Austria.”