Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein in Vienna, September 30 .
(photo credit: KNESSET SPEAKER YULI EDELSTEIN'S OFFICE)
Indifference to anti-Semitism cannot be allowed, because it was a crucial component in bringing about the Holocaust, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein warned Tuesday at a ceremony posthumously honoring 11 Righteous Among the Nations in Vienna.
“The Holocaust did not start in Auschwitz, Treblinka, Babi Yar, or any of the other myriad Nazi killing grounds.
It began in cities when bricks were thrown through Jewish storefronts, when synagogues were desecrated, and when Jewish businesses were boycotted, and it spread because too many of those good people remained indifferent,” he stated.
Edelstein pointed to “clouds of anti-Semitism brewing over Europe,” including attacks on synagogues and well-attended rallies featuring anti-Semitic slogans.
“Under the guise of legitimate protest, Jews have been cursed and insulted on the street, beaten for flying an Israeli flag, barricaded inside synagogues by violent mobs, and murdered in the Brussels Jewish museum and a school in Toulouse,” he said. “We cannot know the consequences of this rising tide, and we cannot afford to find out. Indifference to current events is not an option.”
Edelstein praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck, as well as British Prime Minister David Cameron and other European leaders, for speaking out against anti-Semitism.
“It is our collective duty to proclaim that we will give anti-Semitism no quarter and take concrete actions to battle the hatred that fans it and the indifference that allows it to spread,” he said.
The Knesset Speaker paid tribute to Johann Gottfried and Franziska Horrak; Franz, Maria, Hans, and Isabella Niedrist; Michael and Maria Prem; Heinz and Maria Thaler; and Anna Wimmer – all of whom saved Jews during the Holocaust and whom Yad Vashem honored as “people for whom indifference was not an option,” Edelstein said.
“They recognized that we all share a common humanity, a realization that led these common people to perform some incredibly uncommon acts of kindness and to willingly risk their lives to save another’s,” he said.
“Jewish tradition tells us that one who saves a life is considered to have saved an entire world – that person’s children and descendants on into the future,” he continued. “We cannot know how the world might have looked if more people had acted similarly to the Horraks, Niedrists, Prems, Thalers, and Anna Wimmer.
But it is likely that there would have been tens – if not hundreds – of thousands of additional Jews living with us today, each making his or her individual contributions to improving this world.”
Hatnua MK David Tsur, who chairs the Israel-Austria Parliamentary Friendship Group, and Ambassador to Austria Zvi Heifetz also attended the ceremony, which Austrian Parliament President Doris Bures and the Israeli Embassy in Austria organized. It took place at the memorial for the 65,000 Jews who perished in Austria.
On Wednesday, Edelstein plans to meet with Austrian President Heinz Fischer and Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, and will speak out against improvements in Austrian-Iranian relations ahead of Fischer’s planned visit to Tehran.
Edelstein is expected to emphasize the danger a nuclear Iran will present to the whole world.
“It is Austria’s moral imperative to be a partner in enforcing sanctions on Iran, in order to prevent them from having weapons of mass destruction to destroy the Jewish People,” Edelstein said before his trip.