BERLIN, Nov. 11 (JTA) — Only a miracle will keep Austria’s small Jewish community from shrinking away to nothing, according to the leader of Austrian Jewry. Ariel Muzicant made the grim assessment at the dedication Sunday of a memorial to the tens of thousands of Jews deported by the Nazis from Vienna. The memorial, located at Vienna’s City Temple, has the names of 62,400 deportees engraved on black slate. Some 65,000 Jews were deported from the city, but not all their names are known. Vienna also has a Holocaust memorial at Judenplatz. The ceremony marked the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the pogrom of Nov. 9, 1938, when Nazi thugs ransacked Jewish-owned shops and set synagogues ablaze across Germany and Austria. By the time the rampage ended, more than 1,000 synagogues in Germany and Austria had been destroyed. In the following days, several hundred Jews were killed or committed suicide. Muzicant said at Sunday’s ceremony that Austria’s Jewish community, which now has between 7,000 and 8,000 members, is shrinking. By comparison, Germany’s postwar Jewish community has tripled to about 100,000 in the last 10 years, largely as a result of Jewish immigration from the former Soviet Union. While Germany has opened its doors to Jewish immigrants in an attempt to rebuild lost communities, Austria has not done the same. Muzicant, who is up for re-election to his leadership post on Nov. 24, repeatedly has asked the Austrian government to relax its strict immigration laws in order to rebuild the nation’s Jewish community. He voiced the hope Sunday that, in the future, not only memorials but also Jewish kindergartens and schools will be dedicated. Among those at the dedication ceremony were the president of the National Assembly, Heinz Fischer, and Vienna’s mayor, Michael Haupl. Catholic Bishop Helmut Kratzl and Protestant Bishop Herwig Sturm also were present, as was Avraham Toledo, charge d’affaires of the Israeli Embassy in Vienna. Vienna’s chief rabbi, Chaim Eisenberg, called the memorial a symbolic gravesite for all those whose final resting place was not known. In another development, an exhibit about the Nazi deportations from one section of Vienna opened at the Museum of the Landstrasse District. Based on 10 years of research by the museum’s director, Karl Hauer, the exhibit depicts the fate of the 13,048 Jews who lived in Landstrasse in 1938. More than 3,700 were deported to concentration camps, while most of the rest were able escape the city. Only 41 of the deportees survived. The names of the deportees are written on the walls of one room, in Hauer’s own hand.
Toby Axelrod is JTA's correspondent for Germany, Switzerland and Austria. A former assistant director of the American Jewish Committee's Berlin office, she has also worked as staff writer and editor at the New York Jewish Week. She has won numerous awards from the New York Press Association and the American Jewish Press Association. She has published books on Holocaust history for teen-agers.