Austria and Jews

Jul 22 2015 Published by under eastern europe, Uncategorized

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But I have still not touched on the Jewish question of Austria. I am trying to organize how I perceived each country's view of WWII, the Holocaust. I do not mean to be glib, or dismissive. But each was different, and these are just my shorthand, my perception. Poland was filled with guilt. Auschwitz / Birkenau is a national monument. There is a National Museum of the History of Jews in Poland, albeit heavily financed by American Jews. Remembering is paramount. Here is where the Nazis killed Jews.

Hungary, which lost the same order of magnitude as Poland, was less public, national but still there. There are memories and memorials and indeed, the Budapest ghetto was never liquidated and more Jews survived. The list of Righteous is longer, and even though Raul Wallenberg was Swedish, he worked here. He is honored here. But Hungary seemed more obsessed with the Soviet Union. Did I use the word strident before? Very well, I use it again. The "House of Horror" was dramatically in your fucking face about what the Soviets did.

But Austria, Austria struck me as a set of whinging self-pitying European fops. When historically they step away from the damn Hapsburgs, the message was "we were victims of the Nazis, too". No mention of 400,000 people enthusiastically welcoming Adolf Hitler, who never used the word "Austria", giving up their identity to his greater Aryan vision. No mention of Kurt Waldheim, no mention of ongoing anti-semiticism,

The only museum about Jews and the Holocaust was private, nearly empty, and  entirely Jewish/Israel funded. But it is clean and marble and modern. The doors are blast doors, and likely designed by Israelis with an eye to security. There is an archeological site in the basement, a synagogue from the middle ages.

Someone said that the outdoor memorial (a block of books with their spines inward) was in the movie The Woman in Gold and that the Helen Mirren character had the same response to it as he did "meh".

The emptiness of it all was what hit me. The emptiness of current people, the emptiness of what happened. The emptiness of Jews in this part of the world.


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