“I arrived in France when I was only one year old and waited 37 years to become French. I knew nothing about my homeland Germany, my Germanness was virtual, reduced to a language and a passport. The procedure was expeditious and I received my French birth certificate only six months after I started my naturalization process. Three days later, the dual citizen I had just become was again seized with identity-related restlessness and I contacted the Austrian embassy in Paris. Since 2019, Austria, like Germany, allows the descendants of victims of Nazism to recover the nationality of which their ancestor was deprived. This is my case. »
A Jewish student organization, generation after generation, has become an important voice in the Austrian national public debate, even to the point of swaying governments. Tracing the activism of the Austrian Union of Jewish Students (JÖH) from its start to its latest iterations, Liam Hoare’s article tells how their activism confronts the reality of Austrian history and how it challenges the national narrative, recalling the memory of the victims of Nazi crimes and the responsibilities of those who committed them.
Last year, a collective of Viennese artists and activists rekindled the debate over the statue of Karl Lueger, the anti-Semitic mayor of the Christian Social Party in the Austrian capital between 1897 and 1910, whom Hitler considered to be one of the greatest “German mayors of all time”. Liam Hoare revisits for K. this memorial dispute, which still agitates Vienna’s political life to this very day.
Before he resigned, Sebastian Kurz, the conservative Austrian chancellor, led a coalition with the Greens after governing with the far right. Unlike other Central European leaders who shirk the historical responsibilities of their nations, Kurz had a clear discourse on Austrian involvement in the Holocaust. Within Austria’s small Jewish community, overall satisfaction with the Chancellor prevailed on the one hand; but on the other, prominent Jewish figures remained reticent to be fully infatuated with Kurz. As Jews, this is simply more than they can take on. Danny Leder proposes to K. a look back at the former Chancellor’s policy towards the Jews of Austria when he was in charge (2017-2021).
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