Nearly 50 percent of Austrians oppose their government’s decision to compensate Holocaust victims, according to a new poll.
But there are also indications in the poll, commissioned by the American Jewish Committee, that an increasing number of Austrians are acknowledging their country’s role in the Holocaust.
In the survey of 2,000 Austrians older than 14 years old, 45 percent disapprove of their government’s decision in January to establish a $310 million compensation fund for Austrian victims of the Holocaust. Thirty- eight percent approve of the move.
In addition, the same percentage of respondents believe that Jews are exploiting Nazi horrors for their own gain. Again, 38 percent disagreed with this statement.
Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, said the polling results showed no real surprises, given what he called the high rate of anti-Semitism in Austria.
“The key is education and polls such as these” that “demonstrate the extent of the anti-Semitism in Austria and elsewhere,” he said.
An official at the Austrian Consulate in New York declined comment, saying he had not read the poll’s results.
But not all of the results painted such a dark portrait of anti-Semitism in Austria.
Forty-five percent concede that Austria was “also responsible, as a participant, for the events up to 1945.” That figure markedly increased since a 1995 poll, when 29 percent of respondents held that opinion. The AJCommittee conducted its first poll of Austrian attitudes in 1991.
While praising the latest survey for serving as a “barometer of attitudes toward Jews around the world,” Edward Serotta, a Vienna-based photographer, filmmaker and writer, said the survey is flawed because it fails to distinguish between residents of Austria’s liberal capital, Vienna, and those who live in the rest of the country.
The survey also found that 51 percent believe Jorg Haider, leader of the far-right Freedom Party, should be commended for his outspokenness.
At the same time, 49 percent of respondents recognize Haider as anti-Semitic and racist.
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said of the Haider statistics, “In a democracy, people like to hear people speak out. But in their last election, three-quarters voted” against Haider. “I think that’s a healthy statistic.”
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent. The survey can be viewed on the Web at www.ajc.org.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.