Austria: €20 million for Jewish cemeteries

Austria €20 million f

German Cemetary 248x88 AP (photo credit: )
German Cemetary 248x88 AP
(photo credit: )
Austria's government said Tuesday it would pay €20 million ($28.5 million) for the restoration of the country's Jewish cemeteries, many of them in a sad state more than six decades after the end of the brutal Nazi era. The announcement - following a high-level meeting in the chancellery - brings to a close years of acrimony over who should fund the much-needed endeavor. "It was a matter of Austrian responsibility, of respect for history, for fellow Jewish citizens and for the cultural heritage of this country," said Chancellor Werner Faymann. "Delaying the decision even further was unjustifiable." Under the deal, Austria's government will annually channel €1 million into a special fund over the next two decades. The Jewish community will supplement the government's pledge with an additional €20 million raised through donations and agreements with individual communities and districts. In a statement, the Jewish Community Vienna called the funding deal a "belated Hanukkah gift" that set an exemplary step for Europe. Raimund Fastenbauer, secretary-general of the Jewish Community Vienna, told The Associated Press he hoped restoration work would begin next year. He said the country had roughly 70 Jewish cemeteries, 20 of which were in particularly poor condition. The Jewish Community Vienna will now compile a priority list and oversee the renovation process once it starts to ensure that religious rules were not violated, Fastenbauer added. Austria used to be home to a vibrant Jewish community. That changed dramatically when Adolf Hitler annexed the Alpine nation in March 1938 in what became known as the "Anschluss." An estimated 65,000 Austrian Jews perished in the Holocaust and many others fled.