On Tuesday, the Austrian government volunteered to pay 20 million Euros â€“ that is $28.5 million for the restoration of the country’s oldest Jewish cemeteries.
“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.”
According to the deal, the Austrian government will annually channel 1 million Euros into an earmarked fund over the next two decades; and in addition the Jewish community will supplement the government’s pledge with an additional 20 million Euros, raised through donations and agreements with individual communities and districts.
The Jewish Community of Vienna called the funding deal a “belated Hanukkah gift” which sets an exemplary step for Europe.
The restorations are scheduled to begin next year on the country’s 70 Jewish cemeteries, 20 of which in particularly poor condition. Once the Jewish Community of Vienna can ensure that no religious laws were violated, it will compile a priority list and oversee the renovation.
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.
Jewish history in Austria dates back to the Roman Empire, when Jews arrived there alongside the Roman legions.
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