'Austria bears joint responsibility for the Holocaust'

Austrian president visits Jerusalem, discusses 'shared, painful' past, including his country's involvement in the Holocaust.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Official reception of Austrian President
Official reception of Austrian President
Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

On Monday, President Reuven Rivlin and his wife Nehama held a state reception for the Austrian President Dr. Alexander Van der Bellen and his wife, Doris Schmidauer, during their state visit to Israel.

The Austrian president was received at an official ceremony during which the anthems of both countries were played. The presidents then reviewed the IDF honor guard and made joint statements. They then held a meeting to discuss the strengthening relations between the two countries.

The President of Israel welcomed his Austrian counterpart and his wife upon their arrival to Jerusalem, Israel’s capital.

“We are pleased to host you here in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, as a true friend of the state of Israel and of the Jewish people. You have often told your story as a refugee child who too time to feel at home in his country- the same country you are now a president of. Our past is the basis of our values, our beliefs, the choices we make.

“the Jewish nation as well have grown from the past and today its building its future here in the State of Israel, a Jewish and democratic state, democratic and Jewish. I believe that cooperation between Austria and Israel will do well for our economies and can also contribute to the world,” added Rivlin.

“Israel is a strong and stable democracy, we will never compromise our values or the security of our citizens… We hope for a day when Israel will live in peace with all its neighbors. In the Middle East, just as it is in Europe, peace between nations must be based on confidence-building measures and long-term cooperation based on common interests.”

Rivlin referred to the Iranian regime being the main source of instability and terror in the Middle East and Europe. He mentioned how the Iranian regime was the enemy wanting to destroy Israel and not being limited to nuclear weapons nor their involvement in Syria and Lebanon through Hezbollah and other.

“It is our duty to take this threat seriously. We must stop Hezbollah’s aggression before we find ourselves dragged into a battle that neither country is interested in.”

Later in the day, the President accompanied President Van der Bellen during his visit to Yad Vashem.

“Unfortunately, anti-Semitism does not disappear,” the Israeli president told his Austrian counterpart. “It raises its head around the world, and even more so this past year. In your own country there have been about fifty anti-Semitic incidents in the past year, some of which have been investigated by the police. In conjunction with this, the Austrian government has advanced the EU support in a declaration against Antisemitism. The Declaration stresses the importance of the Education of Holocaust Remembrance and calls on governments to take steps to ensure the security of Jewish communities, Jewish institutions and Jewish citizens in Europe. It would be a disaster if Jews were afraid to express their Jewishness in Europe. In addition the declaration calls upon other countries to adopt the new definition of the International Task Force for the Preservation of the Memory of the Holocaust (IRHA), a definition adopted fully by Austria and eleven other countries in Europe."

The President of Austria thanked the President for his warm welcome and said, “Austria and Israel share a special history, and Theodore Herzl, a great Austrian, is the visionary of the Jewish state, the spiritual father of the Jewish state."

Referring to the Austrian responsibility for the Holocaust, Van der Bellen said, “The terrible history also ties us. Tens of thousands of Austrian Jews were murdered by the Nazi regime and many others were expelled and found a new homeland – they built the country and fought in many battles. I am saying it openly here: Austria bears joint responsibility for the Holocaust. Many of Austria’s citizens were among the perpetrators and we bow our heads to the victims in humility and modesty. We shared our responsibility too late and this caused difficulties in our relations at the begging, but today Israel is a bastion of freedom and stability here in the Middle East.”

“Our goal is to ensure that Jews everywhere feel safe. Our responsibility as Austrians to the victims of the Holocaust is to ensure that we live with Israel in peace and unanimity,” the Austrian President stressed.