Gusenbauer Honored by Israeli Private University

Austrian Press Agency (09/07/2007)

Chancellor emphasizes Austria’s moral responsibility for the Holocaust

Tel Aviv – Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer was accepted as “Honorary Member” on Sunday into the Interdisciplinary Center of Herzliya, a renowned Israeli private university. Gusenbauer, dressed in hat and gown, emphasized in his speech Austria’s moral responsibility for the crimes committed against the Jews.

President of the Center, Prof. Uriel Reichmann, explained upon greeting Chancellor Gusenbauer that he needs no speechwriter because he is so knowledgeable in political science and philosophy. The director of the Institute for European Studies, Avi Primor – former Israeli Ambassador to Germany – praised the Israeli Chamber Orchestra for the “courage” to play, of all things, Mozart for Austrians. Primor attested to the Chancellor a balanced view taken by Austria in regard to the Middle East conflict. This is essentially more balanced as that, for example, of Great Britain, from where currently the “worst anti-Semitic tones are being emitted.”

Outgoing Austrian Ambassador Kurt Hengl spoke of excellent relations between Austria and Israel, despite Gusenbauer being only the third Chancellor in thirteen years to visit Israel. In his ceremonial speech, Gusenbauer quoted the Viennese journalist, Theodor Herzl, word for word: “The massacre of the Jews was an urgent sign for the solution of homelessness by erecting again a Jewish state in Eretz Israel (Land of Israel).”

He continued his speech, which he held in English: “Many perpetrators of the Holocaust were Austrians. Many Austrians were part of the Nazi machinery that brought on the death, suffering and destruction of Europe. Many Austrians chose to look away when the Jewish neighbors died and suffered. These Jews were also Austrians like also many Roma, Sinti, Socialists, Communists, Catholics, homosexuals and others who were murdered by the Nazis.”

Austria needed many years until it was ready to accept its moral responsibility for the “blackest period of our history.” Israel was the first country with which the EU was able to conclude a plan of action when it came to cooperating on issues related to anti-terrorism, human rights, scientific exchange or questions on the environment, said Gusenbauer.