JERUSALEM—“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,” said Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, who is visiting Israel.
At a press conferenrece with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the president, who visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem on Monday, said Austria ‘’will remain committed to act with zero tolerance against anti-Semitism.’’
During a meeting with Israeli president Reuven Rivlin, Van der Bellen said that ‘’Austria and Israel share a special history. In the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel, Theodor Herzl is mentioned. He was a great Austrian and the seer of the Jewish state, the spiritual father of the State of Israel.”
Referring to Austria’s responsibility for the Holocaust, he said, “our terrible history also connects us. Tens of thousands of Austrian Jews were murdered by the Nazi regime, and many others were expelled and found a new homeland, building the state and fighting in its wars. I say here loud and clear: 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 we Israel is a stronghold of liberty and stability here in the Middle East.”
He continued, saying “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.”
The Israeli premier commended the Austrian president and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz ”for the very strong statement and very strong position you’ve taken on the truth, on history, on antisemitism.”
”The President of Austria and the Chancellor of Austria, I think, have been exemplary in putting out a simple truth – that antisemitism and anti-Zionism are one. Under the presidency of Austria in the EU, there was a call for countries to sign the declaration, adopt a declaration of antisemitism, adopted by IHRA. This is very much, we believe, commensurate with the truth and with morality. We have followed consistently your positions and the way that you put them forward, we appreciate it very much,” Netanyahu said.