Global Issues: Austria & Czech Republic/Case Reports/Anti-Semitism

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The Judenplatz museum stands on the site of a synagogue that was destroyed in 1421, after having only been standing for one year. The Judenplatz museum in Vienna honors the 65,000 Austrian Jews who were killed by the Nazi’s during the holocaust. The unique façade is intended to honor those dead. The building’s architect designed the memorial as a cube, representing a library with books turned inside out, along the outer wall.

It is possible for anyone in the world to look up the historical information on anyone of the 65,000 individuals who died during the Holocaust. In that sense the effect of the event has become global. Jewish citizens who cannot visit Prague may now look up the background of an ancestor who they are connected too. Also researchers can use information from that period to better solidify their own studies of the period.

In Prague, the oldest Jewish cemetery dates back to 1439. It is located in the Jewish quarter of Prague in a town named Josefov. The town was named after a late ruler of Czechoslovakia who was a staunch supporter of the Jewish community. The Jewish cemetery is noteworthy because of the density of individuals buried at the site. Before being closed to burials, it eventually accepted 200,000 residents of the Jewish community. When navigating the cemetery grounds a person will not see nameplates on the stones. In place of a name will be a unique marker such as an animal, instrument, or other item that represents the name and the individuals place in society. The cemetery recently made global news when First Lady Michelle Obama took a tour of the site.

Neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism is a problem that affects both Austria and the Czech Republic. In 1947 Austria passed a very strict anti-Neo Nazi law that goes as far as offering police protection to places the Jewish community frequent. Recent population records in Austria report the Jewish population being at 8 million. In the Czech Republic there are laws that prevent public displays of hate against the Jewish community. Despite the law supporters of the neo-Nazi ideology still openly propagate their message in public, through protests. In Austria a recent example from May of 2009 suggests that neo-Nazi supporters are capable of carrying out attacks against the Jewish community. A ground of masked gunmen attacked, with “air gun pellets”, a procession of Jewish concentration camp survivors.

The United States Department of State reports on issues of anti-Semitism around the world and in the Czech Republic in recent years there have been numerous examples of young people who deface Jewish gravestones with swastikas and for the use of language such as “Heil Hitler.” In Austria the issue is much worse. In 2003 there was 122 reported incidents with the worst being a bomb threat at a Jewish school.

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