Holocaust Survivors Visit Carinthia

Kurier (07/11 /03)

Initiated by the Austrian Embassy in Israel, the Governor of Carinthia, Jörg Haider, seizes the opportunity to invite Jewish survivors of the Holocaust to visit the region.

A party of fifty-one Israeli citizens arrived in Klagenfurt early in July. The eldest is eighty-three years old, lives in Tel Aviv and is confined to a wheelchair. Next to the elderly man from Tel Aviv are nine other arrivals who were born in Carinthia. Persectued by the Nazis as Jews, they had to leave the country before WW II. He who wasn’t able to flee had his property expropriated and was assassinated.

Carinthia’s Governor, Jörg Haider, seized the opportunity of inviting survivors of the Holocaust and their family members, a gesture initiated by the Austrian Embassy in Israel.

At the official reception of the guests in Carinthia, Haider avoided getting verbally off track: he spoke only of "searching for traces and promoting a dialogue of peace in Carinthia" - and no longer of "former Carinthians who during the course of WW II chaos immigrated to Israel," as he had formulated it previously to the press.

In his speech, the Governor expressed to his Israeli guests his joy over the "special visit." He spoke likewise of "Nazi terror."

The group was accompanied by Gernot Steiner from the office responsible for refugee questions and external humanitarian affairs within the regional government. "Everyone is happy," said Steiner. The guests had actively discussed with the Governor following their arrival.

The visit to Carinthia lasted one week. The program was solidly packed with a visit to Burg Hochosterwitz, individual trips to places inciting childhood memories, an excursion to the Wörthersee, and a visit to the Nockberge.

The final event scheduled on the program evoked the most memories. The Director of the Archives, Wilhelm Wadl, had prepared an exhibit: Jewish cultural life, businesses, bits and pieces from everyday life up until the persecution and expulsion, in addition to anti-Semitism.

Jewish families had come sporadically to Carinthia during the second half of the 19th century. Their main preoccupation was the textile trade. In 1923 the Israelite Religious Community was founded in Carinthia. It numbered three hundred members. In 1938 the number of Jews persecuted during the Nazi terror rose from six hundred to seven hundred due to having counted those who had lived in mixed marriages.

The majority of Jews from Carinthia immigrated to the US, Latin America, Australia, and Palestine. Less than one dozen returned to their place of birth in Carinthia after the war.