In a sign of shifting political winds in Austria, a parliamentary committee has paved the way for the creation of an annual prize to encourage the fight against anti-Semitism.
An amendment passed July 14 would create an award named for Simon Wiesenthal, the late Austrian Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter. The winner would receive about $17,000 annually. Two additional awards of about $8,500 each would go to those who have made a “special civil society commitment against anti-Semitism and for education about the Holocaust,” according to a parliamentary statement.
The amendment is expected to be formally adopted this week.
The goal is “to encourage others to raise their voices,” said Wolfgang Sobotka, president of the National Council, Austria’s lower house of parliament.
Sobotka, a member of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (led by Sebastian Kurz, who has close ties to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu), said he came up with the idea for the prize while on a trip to Israel two years ago.
“Simon Wiesenthal was a great Austrian who did not get the recognition he deserved during his lifetime,” Sobotka said, according to the Austria Press Agency.
Oskar Deutsch, head of Austria’s Vienna-based Jewish community, said the tribute to Wiesenthal, who died in 2005 at the age of 95, would support projects that “strengthen Austria and the whole of Europe, in keeping with humanistic principles.”
Wiesenthal’s daughter, Paulinka Kreisberg-Wiesenthal, said in a written statement that the prize sends an important signal “at a time of rising racism, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.”
Statistics released in May show a gradual rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents and crimes in Austria in recent years.
Austria’s far-right Freedom Party was the only party that did not support the prize because it objected to the name, suggesting instead former Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, a left-wing politician of Jewish background with whom Wiesenthal had clashed.