Austrian Minister of the Interior Johanna Mikl-Leitner visits the IKG

Die Gemeinde, May 2015
German original: BM Johanna Mikl-Leitner zu Besuch bei der IKG

On March 27, 2015, Minister for the Interior Mikl-Leitner visited the Synagogue of the “Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien” (IKG, the Vienna Jewish Community) for a Friday evening service and honored this occasion with an impressive speech, which we would like to reproduce as follows:

Mr. President, Chief Rabbi, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to have the opportunity today to join you in your Friday evening prayer. The Jewish community is an important element in Austria, an important element in Europe. Austria without Jews would not be the same Austria we know and cherish. And Europe without Jews would not be Europe.

Therefore, it is my objective as minister of the interior that our Jewish citizens feel secure in Austria and, first and foremost, at home. Jewish life in Europe has to be a life without fear.

Especially in 2015, as we celebrate an important commemorative year and remember the liberation of the death camps, we have to reflect on the fact that more and more Jews are leaving Europe. A new fear is among us. And we have to oppose this fear resolutely. It has to be our goal and our duty to protect the Jewish community in Europe as much as our freedom and our European civil rights, and this needs to be reflected in the counter-terrorism and the communication strategies of the European Union.

With this communication strategy on EU-values and our civil rights, we do target those individuals who do not understand that European values of freedom also benefit themselves. For example, we will communicate clearly and concisely that without freedom of expression, there can be no freedom of religion either. This is how we do not only oppose radicalization and extremism, but also fight anti-Semitism and intolerance in Europe.

It has to be our clear goal to protect the diversity in our society as well as people of all political and religious beliefs. The fight against anti-Semitism has to become a European issue! But we also act at national level. After the terrorist attacks in Paris, we have once more increased our security measures massively. Especially the protection of the Jewish Community is of main concern. Therefore, we have increased the protection of Jewish facilities.

Beyond that, there is a good and close cooperation between the IKG and the Ministry for the Interior. You, dear Mr. President, have said it repeatedly: The cooperation between the Ministry for the Interior and the IKG is a best-practice model in Europe – and we can and should be proud of that. Therefore, I would like extend my sincerest thanks to you, Mr. President, for this common effort. Ladies and gentlemen, I have already mentioned the commemorative year we celebrate in 2015. Seventy years ago, the inmates of the Mauthausen death camp were freed and Europe was liberated from fascism. Thus, we are celebrating 70 years of peace in Austria this year!

As an old saying goes: “Only who knows the past also has a future” (Wilhelm von Humboldt). This is why we have to keep the awareness of the terrors of the NS-regime alive. The memorial in Mauthausen is one important contribution thereto. By opening a permanent exhibition and the hall of names, alongside numerous publications, we have set important steps to establish the memorial as an international cenotaph against fascism and National Socialism.

The memorial in Mauthausen is an important location against the oblivion, a place of painful memories for the survivors of this concentration camp and a memorial for future generations. It is a reminder for us all never to leave the path of democratic freedom ever again.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am convinced that Austria, that Europe, will remain a place where Jews feel secure and at home. And this is important, because it is your home and you are an important and indispensable part of our society.