Austrian chancellor decries anti-Semitism and his nation’s Holocaust past


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria said there is “no place for anti-Semitism” in his country in a speech in which he promoted Holocaust education and commemoration.

‏His speech earlier this week earned praise from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jewish groups.

Kurz made his remarks at a ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of Austria’s annexation by Nazi Germany in Vienna.

He decried anti-Semitism, saying “There’s no place for anti-Semitism in Austria, and it’s something we’ll fight every day.”

Kurz also acknowledged his country’s “shame” at its Holocaust legacy.

“Our historic responsibility doesn’t end at our borders. We bear a special responsibility to Israel and to the safety of the Jews there,” he said. “For only if Jews can live without restriction in peace and security can a ‘never forget’ become a ‘never again.’”

Members of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, which has anti-Semitic roots and took third place in the country’s October elections, serve in the Austrian Cabinet and have been boycotted by Israel, though Netanyahu met with Kurz in Israel last month.

Netanyahu lauded Kurz’s remarks in a statement that was posted on Facebook.

”I commend Chancellor Kurz for his powerful speech, his determination to combat antisemitism and his intention to advance a series of Cabinet decisions regarding Holocaust education and commemoration,” he said, noting that the Cabinet this week decided to establish a memorial site in Vienna with the names of all 66,000 Austrian Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

“Thank you, Sebastian, for your leadership,” the Israeli leader said.

The American Jewish Committee praised Kurz on Twitter.

“Thank you to AJC friend & Austrian Chancellor @sebastiankurz for speaking hard truths about his nation’s role in the #Holocaust & reaffirming  #Austria’s commitment to combatting #anti-Semitism & supporting #Israel as the nation’s ‘special responsibility,'” the group tweeted.

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