PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN meets Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen of Austria at Vienna International Airport on Friday.
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
European heads of state and government are becoming increasingly embarrassed by the resurgence of antisemitism in their countries and the incidents of both verbal and physical violence, especially in this the 70th anniversary year of the State of Israel.
Austria, where right-wing politics are on the rise, is one of the countries most embarrassed because even before the Second World War, it had been annexed by Germany’s Nazi regime, and Adolf Eichmann in August 1938 chose Vienna in which to establish the central bureau for the final solution to the Jewish problem.
On Friday, President Reuven Rivlin on his return route to Israel from Denmark, stopped off in Vienna, where he was met at the airport by Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen. Rivlin had been in Denmark to participate in commemoration ceremonies, which marked the 75th anniversary of the rescue of most of the country’s Jewish population by the people of Denmark.
The two presidents held a working meeting, during the course of which the Austrian president recalled that many Austrian Jews had been forced to abandon their homes and businesses, and fled the country during the period of National Socialism.
Not all were able to leave. Many were apprehended and sent to death camps, but of those who were able to escape, most found a haven in the Land of Israel and were able to build new lives for themselves.
Although it took a long time for Austria to acknowledge its role in the Holocaust, it did eventually and Van der Bellen assured Rivlin that it would continue to acknowledge its history.
Rivlin voiced his appreciation, also for Van der Bellen’s positive relationship with Austria’s current Jewish community.
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The two presidents also discussed the bilateral relations between their countries, which remain close despite Israel’s misgivings about the ultra right-wing elements in Austria.
Van der Bellen is due to pay an official visit to Israel in 2019. Rivlin said that he looked forward to welcoming him and introducing him to Israeli innovation in various fields.
Conscious of Israel’s world-wide reputation for innovation, the Austrian president likewise noted that Israel has come a long way in a relatively short time.
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