Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday praised Chancellor Sebastian Kurz for the “powerful” speech he gave on Monday marking 80 years since the Anschluss, when Nazi tanks rolled into Austria – greeted by adoring and cheering Austrians – and incorporated the country into the Third Reich.
“Austria used to see itself as the first victim of National Socialism,” said Kurz, who last year formed a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party that was founded in the 1950s by former Nazis. “But the ones who stood in such great numbers and celebrated in March 1938 in Heroes’ Square [in Vienna] were no victims.”
Austria, he said, has taken a long time to be “open and honest” about its past, and the country was “not only a victim but also a perpetrator.” He said that many Austrians supported the Nazis, who killed 60,000 fellows Jews and displaced 130,000 people from their homes. Kurz bewailed that the dispossessed Jews were not invited or welcomed back in the country after the war, and he became the first Austrian chancellor to say that Austria bears a special responsibility for Israel’s security. On Wednesday, the Austrian government approved a plan to build a memorial wall in Vienna listing the names of all 66,000 Austrian Jews murdered during the Holocaust. Talk about erecting this memorial has been ongoing for some two decades.
Netanyahu praised Kurz for his determination to fight antisemitism. “We attribute great importance to his intention to advance a series of governmental decision on education and the commemoration of the Holocaust,” he said. Netanyahu, who met with Kurz last month at the Munich Security Conference, said, “Thank you, Sebastian, for your leadership.”
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