“Highest Priority” for Waehring Cemetery

Der Standard (03/13/2007)

Speaker Prammer criticizes delays over the past years: “I don’t have an explanation”

Vienna – The rescue of the Jewish cemetery in Vienna’s district of Waehring seems more and more likely. After positive signals coming from Vienna’s city hall, Speaker of the Austrian parliament, Barbara Prammer, has joined the chorus. “We not only have a basic responsibility to maintain the Jewish cemeteries in particular; there also exists a legal commitment”, Prammer told Der Standard, admitting at the same time that there” has been no coordinated approach” to the issue over the past few years. For Prammer, who also heads the Board of Trustees of the National Fund, the Waehring cemetery has “highest priority”: ”It has to be the focal point of our attention.”

Acid Rain, Freezing, Rank Growth

This is exactly where the focal point hasn’t been for a long time. The cemetery presents itself accordingly: Closed to the public –public access would be a safety issue- uncontrolled plant growth, acid rain and freeze have been destroying the last existing tombs.

A working group will now be established “as soon as possible”, says Prammer; creating a concept for the upkeep of all Jewish cemeteries in Austria across the federal, state, and local level. “My goal is to create a list of priorities.”

If Prammer has her way, the cemetery project will be financed through the National Fund; the correct appropriation of funds would be guaranteed through the Austrian Court of Audit. This would only be possible with additional funding for the National Fund. Initial talks with the Federal Minister of Finance already took place, said the Speaker. In the case of Waehring, talks with the city of Vienna shall now take place as soon as possible.

Condition “Is Not Unknown”

Why the cemetery has been neglected for so long Prammer can’t answer either. “I don’t have an explanation, and I say that very openly. It has after all been known that the cemetery looks like it looks, but now it would be important to avoid any further waste of time”.

Due to its bad condition, the Waehring cemetery is the center of attention. Overall, the concept includes 66 cemeteries. “I don’t see such big problems anywhere else, so we can postpone other projects for a little bit, explained Prammer”. “Many cemeteries are well taken care of by the communities, and this has been going on without any commotion.”

The 2002 “White book On Status Quo and Renovation Requirements of Jewish Cemeteries”, produced by the Jewish Community mentions “different ways of implementing the established norms of upkeep”. “In sum”, the report reads further, “the ongoing upkeep has room for improvement”. In Germany, an agreement between the federal, state, and local level on the upkeep of Jewish cemeteries has been in place since the 1950s. (Peter Mayr)