Dear Readers,

December 05, 2002

The Austrian Press and Information Service in Washington, D.C. would like to introduce a new newsletter entitled "Jewish News from Austria."

The newsletter will inform you about events in Austria which concern not only Austrian Jews but may also interest the Jewish community and media in the United States and Canada, where a large number of Jewish refugees and Holocaust survivors from Austria have found a new home.

"Jewish News from Austria" will present articles and reports from Austrian newspapers and media which give an impression of the current attitude and climate towards Jews in Austria and elsewhere.

The Austrian Press and Information Service already issues the bimonthly newsletter "Austrian Information" which includes articles of interest to Jewish readers and it will continue to do so. "Jewish News from Austria" complements this publication.

Yours sincerely,
Christoph Meran
Austrian Press and Information Service

Ten Years of Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service

From Virtual Reality to Social Change
By Benedikt Breinbauer, Simon Niederkircher and Fabian Schroeder

In lieu of military service the three authors of the current article are participating as Austrian Gedenkdienst interns for the Kleinmann Family Foundation in the Congregation Shaar Hashomayim in Montreal, Canada. This innovative and unique program was founded by the Austrian Dr. Andreas Maislinger more than ten years ago in 1991.

The three Gedenkdienst interns are involved in the establishment of the Canadian Jewish Virtual Museum and Archives. Their work includes examining and researching the contribution of Holocaust survivors to the Canadian community; digitizing documents, artefacts, and photographs; and developing as well as maintaining the website (

The virtual museum is supported by the Federal government’s Ministry of Canadian Heritage. This department is responsible for national policies and programs that promote Canadian content, foster cultural participation, active citizenship and participation in Canada's civic life, and strengthen connections among Canadians.

Naomi Kramer, museum curator, summarizes the museums goals:

"The history of Canadian Jews is not well known to the public-at-large. This history is particularly relevant in today’s Canadian mosaic with its many cultures, religions, and ethnic groups. Educational opportunities in the areas of tolerance, human rights, civil liberties, and Canada’s role as an internationally recognized leader and promoter of minority group rights are all gleaned from within the history of Canadian Jews."

Fabian Schroeder is involved with the creation and implementation of the video conferencing program, which will involve students from his former high school, BG XIX, in Vienna. Drawing from material in the CJVMA, the program is designed to increase students' awareness of children's rights, minority and ethnic rights, gender and sexual discrimination and effects of immigration.

This will also include a "virtual tour" of districts in Vienna where Holocaust survivors living in Canada had once lived. Canadian students will watch this tour via the Internet and partake of discussions with their Austrian co-partners.

Simon Niederkircher hopes to convey the following lesson from Canadian Jewish history to the Austrian minorities and the public-at-large. This Canadian history provides a model of a minority group which worked loyally and assiduously to help build the country that had provided them with a home.

The current Austrian interns, together with former intern Lothar Bodingbauer, have created a database which will enable Jewish communal organizations to share their holdings.

Benedikt Breinbauer is confident that the participation of the Austrian government in this initiative will solidify and enhance the excellent relationship between Canada and Austria in the domain of cultural exchanges.

Ten Years of Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service

Ten years ago, on September 1, 1992, the young Austrian Georg Mayer initiated the first Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service in the museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau. This was made possible by political scientist Andreas Maislinger who since 1978 had promoted the idea of an Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service abroad. Service in the "Organization for Alternative Service Abroad" (Auslandsdienst) lasts two months longer than the usual twelve months of compulsory civil service. Opportunities in the organization are enhanced by a Social Service program where young Austrians can collaborate on social projects and a Peace Service program where they can support peace initiatives. Worldwide there are 481 partner organizations, however, only a third of these partner organizations are staffed by young Austrians who want to do alternative service abroad.

In 1991 Dr. Andreas Maislinger founded the "Organization for Alternative Service Abroad." It gives young people the chance to do alternative service abroad in one of three categories: Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service (Gedenkdienst), Social Service (Sozialdienst) and Peace Service (Friedensdienst). The "Organization for Alternative Service Abroad" must insure that the young Austrians who are sent abroad are well prepared. An internal administrative organization, staffed primarily by service volunteers, provides appropriate training. Financial support from the Austrian government is also necessary to send as many young Austrians abroad as possible.

Some partner organizations support the young Austrians who participate in the "Organization for Alternative Service Abroad." The organizations provide either direct financial aid or some other form of support. Thus, the Holocaust Museum in Richmond, Virginia, assists their current intern, Markus Kubak, (Gaschurn, Austria) by providing him with an apartment in town. Markus is convinced that his work is important and he appreciates the museum's assistance.

The mission of the Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service program is to ensure that the crimes committed during the Holocaust will be remembered and never happen again.

Written by Florian Oberleiter (Mutters, Austria)
Organization for Alternative Service Abroad

Centropa: Jewish Heritage in Central and Eastern Europe

A nonprofit organization based in Vienna, Austria, the Centropa group is headed by a team of historians, educators, photographers, and other artists and scholars (Edward Serotta, Director). Their site may be of interest as a teaching tool. "Centropa is the signature project of the Central Europe Center for Research and Documentation, a US-based non-profit corporation with its headquarters in Vienna, Austria."

The site contains a number of different oral history and photographic archives, in addition to sections dealing with contemporary Jewish life in the region and around the world. The basic search options within each of these sections allows visitors to choose a country of interest and to highlight certain themes (such as religious figures or personal letters), so that the results will be customized appropriately. An advanced search option allows visitors to look for materials based on family surname and city. Of particular value for those teaching undergraduate students is the way that the database displays search results. Thumbnail images of the sources appear with options to either view the source more closely, to read an explication of the source by its original owner, by someone who interviewed the owner, or by a project staffer, and finally a map link that allows students to see where the source was produced. While this last feature does include annoying pop-up advertisement (via Mapquest), it does allow students to quickly orient themselves to the source’s location (on a current map of the region). Although the database is much smaller than what one finds at the Holocaust Museum site, it is also a bit less overwhelming and so possibly more amenable to a more focused student project.

The site also includes a section that offers suggestions for eating in different restaurants around Eastern Europe and with travel tips for the area. As we know, our students are often much more interested in food than they are in other historical sources, so this feature may offer an interesting way to draw them into the history.

Jewish Community is Declining

The President of the Israelite Religious Community, Ariel Muzicant, warns that the Jewish Community in Austria may be dying out. "We are living in a community which is declining with some mere 7,000-8,000 members", said Muzicant at the opening of a memorial in the Viennese municipal temple for 65,000 Jewish victims of Nazi terror. If a miracle doesn’t happen soon, the Jewish community in Austria will no longer exist in the foreseeable future. Muzicant has repeatedly spoken out about more Jewish immigration.

Chief Rabbi Paul Chaim Eisenberg reminded of "how important it is for us Jews to have a dignified and eternal grave". The memorial is a "symbolic tomb" for all Austrian Jews who were killed by the Nazis. Whereas the memorial on Judenplatz symbolizes the Holocaust in its entirety, the newly opened memorial in the temple is a commemoration of 65,000 individual human fates.

Austrian Federal President Thomas Klestil, President of the National Council Heinz Fischer and Vienna’s Mayor Michael Häüpl attended the official opening. Likewise Suffragan Bishop Helmut Krätzl from the Catholic Church as well as Bishop Herwig Sturm from the Evangelical Church were also represented.

Exhibit on Jewish Life in Burgenland

"Devastated Jewish Communities in Burgenland – Searching for Traces" is the title of an exhibit which opens November 4, 2002 in the Cultural Center in Mattersburg. The exhibit documents the development of former Jewish communities in Burgenland, traces of which are still visible today. The exhibit, originally conceived in 1993, has been revised and newly adapted by students of the Institute of Folklore at the University of Vienna.

Before the National Socialist terror, Burgenland had an extensive Jewish culture. In wishing to discover and preserve that memory, the students conducted a type of search for traces of the past at the location itself. The results were sobering: former Jewish cemeteries were left to disintegrate One of the synagogues was used as a shed for agricultural equipment. Only rarely did a commemorative stone remind one of its original purpose.

The first documented reference of Jewish resident in Burgenland goes back to the 13th century. The rise of permanent Jewish communities in the region of today’s Burgenland appeared initially in the 17th century. The deportation of Jews from Vienna, Lower Austria and Styria were resettled on the estates of the Esterházys and the Batthyánys. The greatest population in these areas within Burgenland was found to be in the middle of the 19th century with over 8,000 registered Jews.

One person commented on the topic remarking that "the last time I was there I was given the key, however, already while unlocking the door to the cemetery, I was hindered by branches, grass and other undergrowth, making it impossible for me to climb over. I hope now that the cemetery can be accessed without difficulty. Another visitor to the exhibit claimed that "one should try to organize readings, evenings with Jewish music, a Pessach party or a theatre piece to open the eyes of the young people and adults. Lectures, discussion and a day of study would also help to rediscover our national past."

Pröll Wishes to Further Jewish Tradition

For more than fifty-seven years the Baden Synagogue stands desolate and more and more in ruin at the center of the city known for its spas. Governor of the region Erwin Pröll claims it "an absolute disgrace". At the cost of some 2.9 million euros the synagogue is now to be renovated.

Baden — The sanctuary will be "modernized" says Thomas Schärf from the Jewish Synagogue Association in Baden and the architects will most likely refrain from restoring the scant traces of past embellishment, whether it be the Moorish-styled columns, the winding staircase or the remains of colourful frescos on the ceiling.

The frescos in particular are "expensive business", exclaimed Schärf, and the Jewish community in Baden remains small. Some mere two hundred members in entire Lower Austria were counted when interest was initially expressed to bring the synagogue back to life.

Now some fourteen years later that has all changed. Governor Erwin Pröll personally announced the agreement to finance the reconstruction. On Monday, the day before his ten-year celebration as Governor: "I believe it is of utmost significance to further Jewish tradition in Lower Austria in this form", he said in conversation with Der Standard.

"Needless to say, the Jewish people of Lower Austria are well known far beyond our regional borders: Theodor Herzl, Arnold Schönberg and Max Reinhardt, for example". Indeed it is "a disgrace" that the renovation of the Baden Synagogue has taken so long; in fact, some fifty-seven years after the end of the Nazi era.

Planned is a sanctuary on the first floor with "a multicultural center" on the floor above, added Schärf. The upper floor will also be rented –"the purpose of which has yet to be decided." Renovation will cost approximately 2.9 million euros – "judging from current-day costs a relatively high estimate when considering the estimate dates back to year 1988. Whereas the state of Lower Austria will contribute fifty percent, the city of Baden twenty-five percent and the Vienna Israelite Religious Community twenty-five percent.

These funds "will be raised in any case" claims the Governor. Should the costs exceed 750,000 euros by the year 2004 due to more expense than anticipated, "the state of Baden will contribute to make up the difference."

Jewish Vienna — Heritage and Mission

An English version of the brochure Jewish Vienna-Heritage and Mission published by the City of Vienna with the help of the Jewish Museum explores Jewish history in Austria and the capital by offering articles on historical sites, discussions with young people, and current developments regarding restitution issues. Moreover, this publication offers a rare list of information on Jewish schools, museums, libraries, youth organizations, social institutions, associations, cemeteries and a welcome center offering member services on old records, genealogical information, assistance with pension claims – all with addresses, tel. and fax numbers, websites, e-mail addresses, and hours of opening/closing. Here are some important contacts listed in the brochure.

Jewish Welcome Service
Setephansplatz 10
A-1010 Vienna
Tel: (+43-1) 538 88 91
Fax: (+43-1) 533 40 98
Opening hours: Monday through Friday 9 am to 5 pm

Jewish Community Vienna
Seitenstettengasse 4
A-1010 Vienna
Tel: (+43-1) 531 01-4
Fax: (+43-1) 531 04-108

Jewish Museum of the City of Vienna
Dorotheergasse 11
A-1010 Vienna
Tel: (+43-1) 535 04 31
Fax: (+43-1) 535 04 24
Opening hours: Sunday through Friday 10 am to 6 pm, Thursday 10 am to 8 pm
The Museum is closed on all Saturdays and on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

Library of the Jewish Museum
Seitenstettengasse 4
A-1010 Vienna
Tel: (+43-1) 535 04 31-410
Fax: (+43-1) 535 50 46
Opening hours: Monday through Thursday 10 am to 4 pm

Museum Judenplatz
Judenplatz 8
A-1010 Vienna
Annex to the Jewish Museum Vienna, information see Jewish Museum Vienna
Opening hours: Sunday through Thursday 10 am to 6 pm, Friday 10 am to 2 pm.
The Museum is closed on all Saturdays and on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Sigmund Freud Museum
Berggasse 19
A-1090 Vienna
Tel: (+43-1) 319 15 96
Opening hours: daily 9 am to 4 pm, July to September 9 am to 6 pm

Arnold Schönberg Center
Schwarzenbergplatz 6
A-1030 Vienna
Tel: (+43-1) 712 18 88
Fax: (+43-1) 712 18 88-88
Opening hours: Monday through Friday 10 am to 5 pm

Austrian Jewish Museum
Unterbergstrasse 6
A-7001 Eisenstadt
Tel: (+43-1) 2682-65 145
Fax: (+43-1) 2682-65 1454
Opening hours: mid-May to 26 October daily 10 am to 5 pm

Documentation Archives of the Austrian Resistance
Wipplingerstrasse 8 (Old City Hall)
A-1010 Vienna
Tel: (+43-1) 534 36 01-771
Fax: (+43-1) 534 36 99-01-771

Mutual Declaration of the Islamic Religious Community in Austria and the Federal Association of Israelite Religious Communities in Austria

The Islamic Religious Community and the Federal Association of Israelite Religious Communities in Austria express their concern over the continual escalation of violence in the Near East which has caused so much human suffering on both sides. They appeal to the conflicting parties, despite the difficult situation, to put a stop to the senseless killings and end the language of violence once and for all: use of force cannot be a solution to political problems.
They appeal also to the conflicting parties to establish as quickly as possible the conditions for returning to the negotiating table and to resume talks with the goal of achieving a peaceful political solution.

Both religious communities observe the recent threatening developments in a number of European countries, causing serious concern for a spill-over of conflict and violence to Europe.

Thus, they wish to express their satisfaction with the prevailing peaceful situation which exists between the religious communities in Austria. They are also fully prepared to make their contribution in maintaining a climate of tolerance, open dialogue and peaceful coexistence between the religious communities in Austria.
It is in this respect that both religious communities would like to express their satisfaction with the efforts made by Austria in relation to this matter.

Vienna, April 02, 2002
Anas Schakfeh
Honorary President of the Islamic Religious Community in Austria

Dr. Ariel Muzicant
Honorary President of the Federal Association of the
Israelite Religious Community in Austria

Cultural Partnership Forged Between Austria and Israel Foreign Ministry Signs Memorandum

In furthering the relationship between Austria and Israel, the Foreign Ministry signed in Vienna on November 13, 2002, a memorandum regarding cooperation in the areas of culture and education. This pertains to the third bilateral agreement containing plans to intensify bilateral contact for the coming four years. In addition to strengthening the relationship in the area of culture, (particularly film, music and dance), scientific cooperation between universities, trade schools and other research institutes is to be expanded as well.

Austria and Israel greeted the positive development since the founding of the Austrian Center for Studies at the Jewish University in Jerusalem in 2001, which has decidedly led to improving knowledge of Austria in Israel. Also the project "Searching for Traces", initially begun in 1994, will be continued. This project aims at offering the third postwar generation living in Israel the opportunity to become better acquainted with their Austrian ancestors, to come to Austria and conduct discussions with young Austrians. The "Jewish Welcome Service" in Vienna shares similar intentions by hoping to provide for mutual understanding and reconciliation. The head of the Austrian and Israeli delegation claimed the new Memorandum as being an important contribution in strengthening the friendship between Austria and Israel.