Austria's Kurz: We Have a Responsibility to Fight for Jews in Israel

'Our historical responsibility does not end at the Austrian or European border,' the Austrian chancellor says at a ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz talk to Rabbi Arthur Schneier during a ceremony to mark the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht in Vienna, Austria, November 9, 2018.
AFP

Austria's Nazi past has given it a responsibility to fight for Jews in Israel as well as at home, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Friday.
Austrian leaders and Holocaust survivors from Israel gathered in Vienna to commemorate the Nazi pogroms against Jews 80 years ago in November 1938.

"I can assure you that Austria is a different country today," Kurz said.
"Our historical responsibility does not end at the Austrian or European border," he said, stressing Austria's obligations toward Israel.

The president of the Austrian parliament, Wolfgang Sobotka, asked for forgiveness in the name of Austria, which was part of Nazi Germany between 1938 and 1945.

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Leaders of the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), which forms a coalition with Kurz's conservatives, attended but did not hold speeches.

Israel's government has been avoiding contact with ministers of the FPOe, which attracted former Nazis as members after World War II.

In the so-called Kristallnacht pogroms, or Night of Broken Glass, anti-Semitic mobs ransacked thousands of Jewish homes, shops, business and synagogues.

At least 30 Jews were killed and 7,800 were detained within a few days in Austria alone.

The pogroms foreshadowed the genocide in the years to come, including the killings of some 66,000 Austrian Jews.

Vienna-born US rabbi Arthur Schneier recounted on Friday how most of his school friends turned into strangers overnight in November 1938.

"I got to know the best and the beastliness within humans early in my life," he said at the event. "I strongly believe that the good will prevail in humans," he added.