Austria shares responsibility for the Holocaust and aims for Jews to be able to live safely everywhere, Austrian president Alexander Van der Bellen said on during his visit to Israel.
The two met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
The Austrian foreign minister Karin Kneissl was not invited to join the presidential delegation, Israel clarified ahead of the event, despite Austria’s attempts to get Jerusalem to stop boycotting the politician, who belongs to the far-right Freedom party.
Israel has boycotted the Freedom Party for years, because of its neo-Nazi roots and because the present Jewish community in Austria complains of antisemitism by contemporary party members.
Earlier, Van der Bellen visited Yad Vashem, accompanied by Rivlin. During the reception, Rivlin told the Austrian president that “Unfortunately, antisemitism is not disappearing. It is raising its head across the world, and even more so in the last year. In your own country, there were some fifty antisemitic incidents last year, some of which are being investigated by the police. On the other hand, Austria led European support for the EU’s statement against antisemitism… The way to stamp out antisemitism has two elements – taking responsibility for the past and an uncompromising fight against any hint or act of antisemitism or xenophobia of any kind.”
Van der Bellen thanked Rivlin for the reception and said, “Austria bears shared responsibility for the Holocaust. Many Austrian citizens took part, and we bow our heads in memory of the victims in humility and respect. We admitted our shared responsibility too late and that caused problems in our relations at the beginning, but today Israel is a stronghold of liberty and stability here in the Middle East.”
The Austrian president went on to say, “Our aim is to ensure that Jews everywhere feel safe. It is our responsibility as Austrians to the victims of the Holocaust to ensure that we live in peace and agreement with Israel.”