Feb 2009 Journal

previous article:Art Notes (review)
next article:Letter from Israel

AJR Report

Towards reconciliation

Hannah Lessing, General Secretary of the Austrian National Fund, spoke to an audience at the Austrian embassy last month as part of a joint lecture series the embassy is running with the Wiener Library.

As well as covering both the pre- and post-war history of Austria, Ms Lessing spoke about the work of the National Fund, Austria’s participation in the Task Force for International Co-operation on Holocaust Education, Research and Remembrance, and about efforts to combat anti-Semitism.

In her talk, Ms Lessing reminded the audience that the victims of National Socialism in Austria represented only a fraction of the post-war population. Far greater numbers of former Nazis had returned to live in Austria at war’s end. She argued that the interests of the survivors had consequently been largely neglected in the new society.

To counter anti-Semitism, Ms Lessing pointed to Austria’s participation in various international co-operative endeavours, including the United Nations, the European Union and the Council of Europe, as well as the work of the Documentation Archive of Austrian Resistance, which since the 1970s has monitored and analysed right-wing extremism and neo-Nazi activities in Austria.

She also pointed to the relative success of legislation in Austria to criminalise Nazi and neo-Nazi activities, including Holocaust denial or trivialising National Socialist genocide.

In relation to more recent matters, she referred to the projects supported by the National Fund, which, she argued, have contributed to the victims’ reconciliation with modern Austria. These initiatives include schemes which provide physical and psychiatric care to Holocaust survivors and the creation of memorials and educational and research projects to teach future generations.

Hanna Lessing concluded by making reference to the ongoing work to spread the message about the history and efforts of Austria: ‘Reconciliation is not something that comes easily. It has to be sought – and we will not stop trying.’

Written enquiries should be sent to Central Office for Holocaust Claims (UK), Jubilee House, Merrion Avenue, Stanmore, Middx HA7 4RL, by fax to 020 8385 3075, or by
email to mnewman@ajr.org.uk


Michael Newman

previous article:Art Notes (review)
next article:Letter from Israel