Jewish Cemeteries in Vienna: Maintenance Agreement fixed

Source: Israeltische Kultusgemeinde Wien

It took nearly three years. However, on Thursday [26 September, 2013] the agreement between the Jewish Community (IKG) and the city of Vienna concerning the maintenance of Jewish cemeteries in Vienna will be discussed in the Viennese municipal council.

So far the maintenance of the graves was supported by the City of Vienna with 340,000 EUR per year. This amount will be increased up to 860,000 EUR p.a. for the next 20 years. “It took quite some time, but it is a good deal.” said the president of the Jewish Community Oskar Deutsch speaking with the newspaper Der Standard.

Important Agreement

The agreement with the city of Vienna is important, as it is the only way that federal funds can be channeled for the repair of the partly ramshackle facilities. While the public authorities had been responsible for the care of war graves for a long time, the situation for Jewish cemeteries remained grim. It was only in 2010 that a regulation was passed to stop the deterioration of the more than 60 cemeteries. Back then a fund of EUR 20 Mio was created which was intended to release EUR 1 Mio each year.

“Intended” because the release would only happen when the “owner”, often the IKG, can provide the same amount of money. This, at times, is difficult, the IKG president admits. “We try our best”, Deutsch says. The cemeteries will be repaired one by one. “If we wait patiently until everything is complete, it will take many more years”.

Renovation will last several years

This is exactly what Historian Tina Walzer, who has been researching the Jewish Cemeteries Währing for years, fears: “The renovation will take years, even if we were to start immediately. Who is taking care of the vegetation in the meantime?”  Walzer also points out, that “the agreement does not encompass Jewish graves in the cemeteries Döbling and Urnenhein Feuerhalle Simmering”.

Councilwoman Jennifer Kickert who was involved in the negotiation of the agreement on behalf of the Green Party, is less pessimistic. “It is clear that the city of Vienna needs to assist in the restoration [of the cemeteries].” For the Jewish Cemetery in Währing “more talks” would be required. Vienna is by far not an exception; “for around half of all the cemeteries” maintenance agreements have so far been established, according to Oskar Deutsch.  

Peter Mayer, Der Standard, September 26, 2013