'There were also many murderers among us'

Austrian parliament chairman visits Knesset wearing skullcap, admits his countrymen were 'not only victims of the Nazis'.

Mordechai Sones,

Chairman of the Austrian Parliament with the Speaker of the Knesset
Chairman of the Austrian Parliament with the Speaker of the Knesset
Yitzchak Harari, Knesset Spokesman's office

Austrian National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka held an official visit to the Knesset today and met with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Israel-Austria Friendship Group head MK Amir Peretz. During the visit Sobotka wore a skullcap on his head.

At the meeting, Austrian parliament speaker said the facts should be told about Austria's conduct during the Holocaust.

"The Austrians weren't only victims of the Nazis in World War II. There were also many murderers among the Austrians, and in 1945, we did not ask the Jews to return to Austria, we didn't invite them back," Sobotka said.

"We have a different view of history and we are responsible, and we all have to say together: No more."

The Austrian National Council President pledged that his country would work for Israel, and this fall would become a member of the UN Human Rights Committee. "We'll make sure there'll be a more balanced position toward Israel and its needs," Sobotka said.

Knesset Speaker Edelstein said at the meeting: "I mention that Sobotka, together with other senior officials in the Austrian government, strongly condemned the anti-Semitic speech and disgusting remarks of Abu Mazen. I wish all countries of the world would condemn things so decisively.

"We are witnessing a change in the Austrian government's approach, and the current government understands Israel's security and political needs. I'm convinced relations between the parliaments will be tightened as a result," added Edelstein.

MK Peretz also praised the cooperation and the strengthening relations between Austria and Israel, but noted that the Freedom Party's partnership in the coalition hampers rapprochement attempts. "Parallel to the party leader's efforts to eradicate the anti-Semitic scourge of the party, official student conferences are held under its auspices where harsh words like "Let's go for the seventh million" are spoken. We avoid meetings in the Austrian parliament so as not to run into party members."

In response, the Austrian parliament speaker said: "I certainly understand the Israeli position. This is one of the issues that most occupy us in the framework of relations with Israel. We have severe legislation against neo-Nazis, and at the same time we're making efforts to cultivate a society that doesn't allow anti-Semitism to raise its head. Every party must clean its ranks, and there are efforts and desire in the Freedom Party to expel the undesirable members. Incidentally, the Freedom Party, as well as the Conservative Party in which I am a member, are the only two parties in Austria with Jewish members."

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