•   
  •   

World Austria's newest citizens reclaim birthright stolen by the Nazis

06:35  03 may  2021
06:35  03 may  2021 Source:   afp.com

Louie Gohmert, Newsmax Host Say Trump Not Nativist, Note '2 Out of 3 Wives Immigrants'

  Louie Gohmert, Newsmax Host Say Trump Not Nativist, Note '2 Out of 3 Wives Immigrants' "Two out of three of [Trump's] wives are immigrants so like, come on man," host Carl Higbie said of former President Bush's 'nativist' remark.Gohmert railed against what he and other Republicans call President Joe Biden's "open border" policy during Newsmax's Saturday Report, which focused on the influx of migrants coming to the U.S. southern border with Mexico. On Friday, Bush walked back "isolationist" and "nativist" remarks he recently made about today's GOP after former President Donald Trump's term in the White House.

Even if they rarely speak German and some have never set foot on Austrian soil, nearly 76 years after the Holocaust, descendants of those forced out of Austria by the Nazis are reclaiming the nationality stolen from their ancestors.

text, letter: A law which took effect in September has made it possible for Holocaust victims' descendants to gain Austrian citizenship © OLIVIER DOULIERY A law which took effect in September has made it possible for Holocaust victims' descendants to gain Austrian citizenship

"It was very important for me," says 17-year-old American high school student Maya Hofstetter, who wants to piece together the fragments of her great-grandmother's painful history.

a close up of a pencil: AFP spoke to a group of new Austrians living in Israel, Britain, the United States and Argentina to find out why they had chosen to take citizenship © ALEX HALADA AFP spoke to a group of new Austrians living in Israel, Britain, the United States and Argentina to find out why they had chosen to take citizenship

AFP has gathered testimony from new Austrians like Hofstetter who have benefited from a 2019 change in the law which took effect in September, making it possible for Holocaust victims' descendants to gain Austrian citizenship.

Angry Pastor Again Confronts 'Nazi' Police Investigating Church COVID Violations in Video

  Angry Pastor Again Confronts 'Nazi' Police Investigating Church COVID Violations in Video The pastor first gained international attention on Easter Sunday after posting a video showing local police telling worshipers to leave the service due to COVID-19 safety violations. Appearing in a segment on Fox News days later, Pawlowski likened the investigations by police to growing up in Poland under a communist dictatorship. "I grew up under a Communist dictatorship behind the Iron Curtain, under the boot of the Soviets, and I'm tell you that's no fun at all. It was a disaster," he said. "So, it was like a flashback when those police officers showed up at my church.

The motivations of the applicants -- whose relatives were all Jewish although the law does not concern only Jewish victims -- vary.

From sentimental, to a duty to remember, and for some, a sense of justice, Hofstetter and fellow American Noah Rohrlich, Gal Gershon in Israel, Tomas Diego Haas in Argentina and Robert Anderson in Britain explained in phone and video interviews why they chose to take the step.

a person sitting at a table in front of a laptop: Noah Rohrlich, 25, remembers trying to get memories of Vienna from his grandfather who escaped before the outbreak of WWII © OLIVIER DOULIERY Noah Rohrlich, 25, remembers trying to get memories of Vienna from his grandfather who escaped before the outbreak of WWII

- Forced exile -

a book on a table: Austria had a Jewish population of some 200,000 before Nazi German soldiers marched in to annex the country in 1938 © OLIVIER DOULIERY Austria had a Jewish population of some 200,000 before Nazi German soldiers marched in to annex the country in 1938

Their stories begin with snippets of history passed down through their family trees.

The Supreme Court’s conservatives are quaking over cancel culture

  The Supreme Court’s conservatives are quaking over cancel culture The Court’s right flank is afraid that the monster under their bed will cancel them.“Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed. For my part, I do not look forward to a society which, thanks to the Supreme Court, campaigns anonymously ... and even exercises the direct democracy of initiative and referendum hidden from public scrutiny and protected from the accountability of criticism. This does not resemble the Home of the Brave.

The forced exile of Maya Hofstetter's great-grandmother Stella Rinde Coburn began in August 1939, the year after Austria's annexation by Adolf Hitler's Third Reich.

Gershon's grandfather Eric Otto also left.

"He didn't want to leave Austria. It wasn't his decision," says the 46-year-old sales director for Israel's national carrier, El Al.

"When he was 13 years old in 1938, his parents put him on a ship to Palestine," he says.

Only after World War II did Otto learn that his family had died in the Nazi camps.

Hannah Lessing holding his hand up to his mouth: Hannah Lessing, secretary general of Austria's National Fund for victims of the Nazi era, says descendants of Holocaust victims are welcome to © ALEX HALADA Hannah Lessing, secretary general of Austria's National Fund for victims of the Nazi era, says descendants of Holocaust victims are welcome to "come back when they want"

Austria had a Jewish population of some 200,000 before Nazi German soldiers marched in to annex the country.

a hand holding a book: Brexit was a © Lindsey Parnaby Brexit was a "very important" aspect in his decision to apply for citizenship in an EU country, says Robert Anderson

More than 65,000 of them were killed in the Holocaust, with the vast majority of the rest having to flee to survive, settling in locations as far flung as Shanghai and Buenos Aires.

NT stolen generation sues federal govt

  NT stolen generation sues federal govt Up to 6000 Indigenous survivors of the stolen generation in the Northern Territory have filed a class action lawsuit against the federal government.Shine Lawyers on Wednesday said in a statement it would take on the case, with up to 6000 Indigenous Australians eligible to join the class action filed in the NSW Supreme Court.

text: So far, under the new law more than 1,900 have obtained Austrian citizenship, mostly from the US, Britain and Israel © OLIVIER DOULIERY So far, under the new law more than 1,900 have obtained Austrian citizenship, mostly from the US, Britain and Israel

The latter was where Tomas Diego Haas's father ended up after bribing an Argentinian diplomat.

Haas, now 63, practises that most Viennese of professions: he is a psychoanalyst.

- 'The past affects the present' -

Rohrlich's grandfather escaped before the outbreak of the war and got into Harvard in 1946, four years after his parents died in a concentration camp.

Rohrlich, a 25-year-old resident of the Washington DC area, remembers trying to get memories of Vienna from his grandfather.

"Anytime we asked him about it, we would usually get a one-sentence answer," he says.

A sobering piece of heritage which has reached him is the Gothic-lettered passport of his great-grandparents Egon and Cilly, stamped with the red "J" signifying they were Jews.

a man using a laptop computer sitting on top of a piano: The new Austrians cherish traces of their heritage © Lindsey Parnaby The new Austrians cherish traces of their heritage

Many of those who had to leave were not keen on talking about the experience.

The priority was rather to draw a line under Austria and start afresh elsewhere.

Banning Australians from returning from India is unprecedented and arguably racist. But is it legal?

  Banning Australians from returning from India is unprecedented and arguably racist. But is it legal? The Biosecurity Act gives the government extraordinary powers, but surely those powers aren't absolute?Australia is the only country in the world that has attempted to prevent, by law, its own citizens from coming home — and the legal basis for this is in the act.

For their descendants, becoming Austrian citizens is often a way of reconnecting with their forebears.

"Now, being an Austrian citizen and an engineer kind of makes me feel closer to him," says Rohrlich, referring to the fact he also shares his grandfather's profession.

Gershon speaks of "a very emotional journey".

"It was closing the story in honour of my grandfather's memory," he says, as well as an attempt to "correct history".

Despite her tender age, Hofstetter is well aware that "the past really does affect the present" and believes that learning about her family's experiences can help her become a "good person".

Her mother Jennifer Alexander, a social scientist for the American government, says that recent political developments in the United States have weighed heavy in her thinking.

"I'm glad my grandparents were not here to see America in the last four or five years. They would have been very upset," she says.

As for Anderson, who speaks of his "delight" when his Austrian paperwork came through, Brexit was a "very important" aspect in his decision to apply for citizenship in a European Union country.

a book sitting on top of a bookshelf: Robert Anderson, 77, is descended from the Austro-Hungarian Empire elite and went on to become the director of the British Museum © Lindsey Parnaby Robert Anderson, 77, is descended from the Austro-Hungarian Empire elite and went on to become the director of the British Museum

"I feel European, not only British and I was extremely upset when the UK decided to leave the EU," he says, adding that the move was taken "for all the wrong reasons".

Gareth Southgate could be without 12 PLAYERS for Euro 2020 warm-ups

  Gareth Southgate could be without 12 PLAYERS for Euro 2020 warm-ups SAMI MOKBEL: Chelsea will face Manchester City in Istanbul on May 29, just four days before England face Austria in their first tournament warm-up game. It means the likes of Mason Mount, Ben Chilwell, Reece James, Phil Foden, Kyle Walker, John Stones and Raheem Sterling - who are all likely to be named in Southgate's 26-man squad - will miss the clash at the Riverside Stadium.

- 'Mixed feelings' -

The next step for some of the new Austrian citizens is to visit the Alpine country of 8.9 million people.

"I've never been to Austria and it's my true passion to go there and hopefully I will go with my kids," says Gershon.

Hofstetter says she would even "love to live in Austria, to study there."

"I definitely want to connect more with learning the language, the culture," she says.

Rohrlich dreams of finding his grandfather's old apartment.

"Maybe take a tour through Esterhazy Park, where he kept saying it was across from," he says.

"There was also an ice skating rink he was very fond of. I don't know if that's still around."

While few of those whom AFP interviewed expressed a desire to live in Austria, most said they did want to take part in elections and try to find long-lost relations.

Some wonder what their ancestors would make of their decision.

Rohrlich says he thinks his "grandfather would very much have been pleased" and that for him it was self-evident he should take up the opportunity.

Haas, on the other hand, recognises that his father would have had "mixed feelings".

"He had wonderful memories of going to the Wienerwald (Vienna Woods)" and went to the opera several times a week, Haas says.

"But he could not forgive Austria because they took his life away."

Hofstetter, too, thinks her great-grandmother may not have been "very happy" at the prospect of her descendants becoming Austrian.

"I think she would think we are betraying her... Or maybe not betraying her but siding with the people who kicked her out."

Two women's murds in Austria: Terrible family drama around Stefan Mross

 Two women's murds in Austria: Terrible family drama around Stefan Mross Austria was shaken by Morden to two women. According to police, they are about the aunt and the cousin of folk musicians and moderator Stefan Mross. © Getty Images Stefan Mross These are shocking messages that made the lap in the media last night (May 6, 2021): Two women have been killed in Austria through several shots. The victims should be information about the cousin and the aunt of Schlagerstar Stefan Mross , 45, act.

- 'Ask forgiveness' -

It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of descendants of refugees could be eligible for Austrian citizenship.

So far, more than 1,900 have obtained it, mostly from the US, Britain and Israel.

Until now, it has not been possible for them to apply, says Hannah Lessing, the secretary general of Austria's National Fund for victims of the Nazi era.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said in a statement to AFP that it was his country's duty to "respond to (the descendants') wishes with humility" in order to right this historic wrong.

"Nothing can take away the pain. The only thing we can do is to ask forgiveness. I am moved to see that this gesture of reconciliation has largely been accepted," he said.

The families interviewed by AFP have been impressed by the warmth extended to them by Austria's current politicians and representatives abroad.

It is as if after three generations Austria is acknowledging the violence of its history.

Germany followed suit in March with an announcement that it was also making it easier for Holocaust victims' descendants to become German.

Austrian historian Oliver Rathkolb calls the move on citizenship "an important signal" which shows that society "is taking the consequences of the Holocaust seriously" over the long term.

Even though several laws mandating the return of stolen goods and property to victims were passed in the immediate post-war period, Austrian society for decades clung to a narrative claiming the country had been the Nazis' "first victim".

It was only after a storm of controversy over the Wehrmacht past of presidential candidate Kurt Waldheim in the 1980s that a more critical appraisal of Austrians' role in the Nazi period gained ground.

However, this did not prevent the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) -- created in 1956 and initially led by a former Waffen SS officer -- from entering government, first in 1983, then again in 2000-2005 and 2017-2019.

Putin vows to defend ‘Russian interests’ on WWII Victory Day

  Putin vows to defend ‘Russian interests’ on WWII Victory Day Thousands of soldiers and veterans attended the gathering in Red Square to mark victory in the ‘catastrophic’ war.Putin’s speech on Sunday came at the start of an annual parade that sees military hardware roll through the streets of Moscow. More than 12,000 military personnel took part in the march, as well as some 190 pieces of military equipment and 76 fighter jets and helicopters.

After a long period in which the FPOe rejected the notion of Austrian complicity in Nazi crimes, the party has in recent years become more amenable to attempts at restitution as part of broader efforts to clean up its image.

In Buenos Aires, Haas remembers with some bitterness the "very ugly" reception from one Austrian official when he attempted to apply for citizenship a few years ago, before the new law.

"He was repeating: 'You are the son of an Argentinian', he told me that three times".

Haas felt his father and grandfather's Austrian identity were being denied.

Hannah Lessing is at pains to point out that among Austrians today "that awareness of what was lost is there" and that descendants are welcome to "come back when they want".

"When you look at what Jewish culture contributed in art, science, medicine, culture, intellectual life -- it was an unbelievable richness," she says.

- Freud, Loden and Knoedel -

That richness was particularly evident at the turn of the 20th century, with Austria's Jewish community producing such luminaries as writer Stefan Zweig, father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud and composer Arnold Schoenberg.

Hints of the "world of yesterday" described by Zweig in his famous memoir are to be found in the Viennese touches to Anderson's home in the eastern English town of King's Lynn.

Not least among them is a 100-year-old Boesendorfer piano.

Anderson, 77, is descended from the elite of the Austro-Hungarian Empire: his grandfather ran a big oil company before fleeing to London with his family.

Anderson himself went on to become the director of the British Museum in 1992.

He along with others was responsible for the construction of the spectacular Queen Elizabeth II Great Court, designed by Norman Foster and opened by the Queen in 2000.

The other new Austrians cherish traces of their heritage, too.

Haas has a traditional "Loden" jacket he bought on his first visit to Vienna.

Gershon says that while his grandfather "never explained or shared any memories" of his childhood, he did pass on his love of sweet "Marillenknoedel", a sort of apricot dumpling typical of the Wachau valley.

Now he makes them for his children in what he describes as "a little tribute to my grandfather's memory".

Haas remembers that his father asked him at the end of his studies if he had read Freud in Spanish.

"I said 'yes' and he said: 'Well, then you will never understand Freud!'"

Nevertheless, Haas stresses that he had "an Austrian culture and education" and that he "feels at home" in Austria.

"I was Austrian, the only thing is that now, they recognise it," he says.

bg/anb/dp/jsk/kjm

Putin vows to defend ‘Russian interests’ on WWII Victory Day .
Thousands of soldiers and veterans attended the gathering in Red Square to mark victory in the ‘catastrophic’ war.Putin’s speech on Sunday came at the start of an annual parade that sees military hardware roll through the streets of Moscow. More than 12,000 military personnel took part in the march, as well as some 190 pieces of military equipment and 76 fighter jets and helicopters.

usr: 1
This is interesting!