DerStandard.at, January 13, 2017
German original: http://derstandard.at/2000050666636/Ari-Rath-1925-2017
Alexandra Föderl-Schmid, Editor in chief
The journalist, who was expelled from Vienna and worked in Israel, passed away Friday morning at the age of 92 in Vienna. A Personal Obituary.
„I am a fighter, I will continue:“ With this statement, Ari Rath encouraged those who visited him in the hospital over the past weeks. During a trip to Israel, Rath unexpectedly experienced heart problems; only after his return to Vienna did the doctors in Vienna operate, but things were further complicated by problems with his lungs. Even as he could barely breathe, he still inquired about political issues – the speech by the Austrian Federal Chancellor, the accusations against Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, or the latest rants of Donald Trump.
Expelled from Vienna by the Nazis at Age 14
He already had a life and death struggle in this hospital in 2011 after a ruptured appendix – at the end of a lecture tour, he was thus forced to stay in Vienna for an extended period of time. He could have never imagined spending this much time in Austria, he said repeatedly.
Vienna was the city from where he was expelled by the Nazis at the age of 14. Through an adventurous journey he eventually came to Haifa on a Kindertransport ship Galilee via Trieste. After arriving in Palestine, he and his brother swore to henceforth only speak Hebrew with each other. Ari Rath lived in a kibbutz for 16 years; in 1946, he spent 21 formative months in the United States for the Zionist youth movement.
Editor in Chief of The Jerusalem Post
The English language, formerly unknown to him, would become the tool of his trade: for 31 years, he worked as a journalist for the English-language paper The Jerusalem Post, 18 of those years as publisher and editor in chief. He liked to talk about his journalistic coups; for example, he was the only journalist present when German Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, met in 1960. He worked for Teddy Kollek; Yitzak Rabin, Moshe Dayan, Golda Meir, Shimon Peres, Olof Palme and Bruno Kreisky were his regular interlocutors.
He often mentioned the fact that The Jerusalem Post was still a liberal paper at that time. He was not just troubled by the development of his newspaper, but also by the development of his country. He no longer came to his apartment in Israel that often during the past years, as he had moved into an abode at the Maimodes senior residence of the Jewish Community in Vienna, where his desk spilled over with newspaper clippings and papers.
His relationship with Austria had gradually changed since his hospital stay in 2011. Ari Rath wanted to make a contribution, so that what he had to endure – the experience of the Holocaust, flight and expulsion – would never happen again. This is why he did not understand the increasing fears and aversions in Austria towards refugees in 2015.
„Ari Means Lion“
He lectured, visited schools, presented his book „Ari Means Lion“ in several locations, and, together with the director Eric Pleskow, who rose to fame in the United States, produced a movie on the life of the „Porzellangassenbuben“ (the boys from Porzellangasse). Ari Rath appeared as one of the „last witnesses,“ the production of the Vienna Burgtheater by Doron Rabinovici and Matthias Hartmann, in which six Holocaust Survivors talk about their haunting experiences. There were also appearances in Germany, the United States (Nota: in June 2016 in NY and Washington, D.C.), and Israel.
He knew how to capture his listeners. During a joint visit at my former high school in Rohrbach, Ari Rath told how much he would have loved to attend a regular school when he was the age of the students that were sitting before him that day. But that was not possible for the „Jew Boy“ in 1938.
92nd Birthday in Vienna
Over the past weeks, one could see by his bedside how many friends he had made in Austria; some of them took intense care of him, and not just during that time. He himself cultivated friendships, too; he called frequently, sent e-mails at late hours, and was looking forward to dinner dates or concerts; music was his passion. Many came together for his 92nd birthday on January 6, a day he was very much looking forward to. Then his energy began to diminish noticeably.
What did bother him until the end was the political development is Austria and in Israel: the rise of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) and the settlement policy in Israel. He articulated his biggest wish again and again during those last weeks – knowing that it would not come true during his time: peace in his homeland. One of his last phone calls was made to his best friend, a Palestinian.
Even though he did make his personal peace through what he called a „convergence“ to Austria, did reassume Austrian citizenship in 2007 next to his Israeli passport, and had been convinced to vote here as well: he still called Israel his home. And there is where he wants to be buried. (Alexandra Föderl – Schmid, January 13, 2017)