Austria Pledges €20 million For Jewish Cemeteries

The Austrian government has approved a bill to allot 20 million for the restoration of Jewish cemeteries across the Alpine republic.

The move comes after protracted debates about who is responsible for the neglected heritage sites.

Ariel Muzicant, president of Vienna's Jewish Community, has said that he is "overjoyed" by the breakthrough.

The bill has set in motion a twenty-year-programme, which will come into action in 2011. Besides a million euros per year from the Austrian government, the fund will be supplemented by the Jewish community.

One hundred years ago, Vienna hosted one of the most dynamic and assimilated Jewish communities in the world. Thousands of Jews fled Austria during the 1930s - including such notable figures as Sigismund Freud - as the shadow of Nazism loomed. Estimates suggest that as late as 1938, 192,000 Jews lived in Austria. Approximately 65,000 perished in the Holocaust.

Over the last few years, Austria has attempted to face up to some awkward issues surrounding the Holocaust. Besides the current measure, further breakthroughs have been made in the arts including a campaign to highlight looted art.

A controversial monument to Austrian victims of the Holocaust was unveiled by noted Nazi-hunter Szymon Wiesenthal in 2000.

Today there are 61 surviving Jewish cemeteries in the Austrian Republic.


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