The government of Austria is expanding its efforts to counter antisemitism, government officials said on Wednesday.
Following a Council of Ministers meeting, constitution minister Karoline Edtstadler and education minister Martin Polaschek told reporters that antisemitism in Austria is a “cross-sectional” issue that must be headed off online and challenged with education.
Their remarks come amid a sharp rise in antisemitic incidents an Austria, a problem the government pledged in 2021 to address with its National Strategy to Combat Antisemitism. Since then, it has enacted nearly 40 measures to reform everything from content moderation policies on social media to the way students learn about the Holocaust.
“The fight against antisemitism is a cross-sectional issue, which is why prevention work on the internet is particularly important,” Edtstadler said.
According to an Austrian daily, Kurier, Austrian teachers have also received additional training in Holocaust studies and schools textbooks have been improved to reflect the full extent of its atrocities.
“We must not close our eyes to the danger of antisemitism,” Polaschek said. “We use educator training, school development as well as professional ethical standards in education to fight antisemitism decisively.”
He added that “we must never forget the crimes that were committed against Jewish people and ensure that such crimes never happen again.”
In 2021, Austria had its most antisemitic incidents since tracking began twenty years ago, the Jewish Community of Vienna reported in May. Jews were targeted 965 times, a 65% increase from 2020’s figures.
In 60% of incidents, Austrian Jews experienced “abusive behavior.” Another 27% were sent antisemitic literature through mass mailings.
“The challenge of the rise of antisemitic incidents is a global phenomenon and we are working closely with all strands of society to combat the rise in antisemitic incidents,” Jewish Community of Vienna president Oskar Deutsch said at the time.
When Karoline Edtstadler, as Federal Minister for the European Union and the Constitution, presented the government’s “National Strategy to Combat Antisemitism” in January 2021, she pointed to assaults on Austrian Jews, as well as a terrorist attack on a synagogue in Vienna that occurred in 2020, as evidence of a growing crisis.
“Jews have been turned into enemy figures again and again throughout history,” she said. “A wave of antisemitic theories with antisemitic content is sweeping through the internet. It scares me that it is spilling over from the digital to the analog world.”
Adopted by the government in last August, the national strategy includes “tripled” investments in enhanced security for Jewish houses of worship and institutions, improvements in hate crime reporting, and new educational courses in antisemitism for civil servants, law enforcement, and students.
“Antisemitism must always be effectively combated, whether at the pub, in the soccer stadium, in social media or in school, and regardless of how it is articulated,” Jewish community head Deutsch said on Wednesday. “It is directed against the foundations of Austria and Europe and thus against all of us.”