Silence About Bruno Kreisky’s Jewish Background Seen As Reverse Anti-semitism

The Jewish ancestry of Austria’s Chancellor-elect Bruno Kreisky was a “taboo” subject during the recent election campaign. That, according to Vienna’s mass circulation newspaper Kronen-Zeitung, amounted to anti-Semitic discrimination in reverse. “Silence and hushing up–talking behind one’s hand–these are just other forms of the old anti-Semitism,” the newspaper said in an editorial published yesterday. The paper charged that while Kreisky’s background was never referred to during the campaign, a sub-conscious appeal to anti-Semitism was contained in posters that labeled his opponent, Dr. Josef Klaus of the conservative People’s Party, “A genuine Austrian.”

Kreisky, 59, is the son of a Viennese Jewish industrialist. He was arrested by the Gestapo in 1938 but escaped to Sweden where he spent the war years. He does not dwell on his Jewish origin and neither did his backers nor his adversaries in the political campaign. Austrian newspapers mentioned his Jewish origin briefly but only when quoting foreign press comment. According to the Kronen-Zeitung, Austrians voted for Kreisky “not because he is a Jew, nor in spite of his being a Jew. They voted for Kreisky the man, the politician.” But, the newspaper said, although anti-Semitism was absent from the campaign, newspaper offices received many anti-Semitic letters opposing Kreisky and anti-Semitic remarks could be heard in every-day conversation in the streets. Austrian newspapers quoted comments from the Arab press which claimed that Dr. Kreisky, as Foreign Minister from 1959-66, demonstrated an understanding for Arab interests. Cairo newspapers warned however that as the head of a new Austrian Government, Kreisky would, as a Jew, be exposed to “Zionist pressures.” When he forms his new government, Dr. Kreisky will be the first Jewish Chancellor of Austria since the republic was formed after World War I.

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