The University commemorated its Dies Academicus by remembering the 600th anniversary of the Vienna Gesera, in cooperation with the Jewish community of Vienna (IKG).
The Gesera (doom in Hebrew) is the persecution of Jews in Austria in 1420-21, which culminated in the execution of over 200 Jews on the orders of Archduke Albert V.
At the beginning of the 15th century, the situation of the Jews in Austria gradually worsened, among other things due to accusations of host sacrilege and ritual murder.
This initially consisted imprisonment or expulsion and forced baptisms in 1420 and on 12 March of 1421 Duke Albrecht issued an edict condemning the remaining Jews to death.
The synagogue of the time was destroyed and its stones used to build the University of Vienna. “Our founding day is an occasion to look at the past and acknowledge that our institution bears a great responsibility, which it did not always live up to,” stressed the university’s rector, Heinz Engl, in a statement.
Moreover, the university more or less legitimised the violence against the Jews by equating them with heretics shortly before the pogrom began. “Theological doctrines can never justify the destruction of human lives,” said the Dean of the Faculty of Catholic Theology, Johann Pock.
IKG President Oskar Deutsch also referred to the prehistory of the events: “The Vienna Gesera was one of the most brutal pogroms of the Middle Ages. It did not come out of nowhere. It was preceded by years of antisemitic propaganda, including accusations of host desecration and ritual murder legends. In the beginning was the word, then came the deed – 600 years ago as well as in later centuries.”