The first speaker to the MEF group in Vienna was Martin Engelberg, precisely one of those Jews who remained in Austria after the War, grew up there, and is now a member of Parliament for the People’s Party (PP). He is active in the Jewish Community and has never found this to be a problem. He noted that in Europe there is a move to the right with the upsurge of the Natl. Rally of Marine Le Pen in France, Victor Orban’s Fidusz Party in Hungary, and Matteo Salvini’s League in Italy. Also in Germany the centrist parties lost in the EU elections and the Greens were the big winners. Note that immigration is not a major issue for the Greens.
Austrians have never owned up to their responsibility for the Holocaust. Their excuse is that they were integrated into the German Reich and had no choice, but this neglects the fact that the Austrians enthusiastically supported the Anschluss and were virulently anti-Semitic. On the right is the Austrian Freedom Party (FP), that was formerly the party of Chancellor Kreisky, who had 4 former Nazis in his cabinet. Then there was the Waldheim scandal in 1986, but after that experience they took steps to change and now the FP is supposedly free of anti-Semitism. For 1.5 years there has been a coalition agreement between the PP and the FP. But right now that has collapsed due to the corruption case.
While we were in Austria, the Government collapsed due to the release of a video made two years before, of Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache of the FP, having a drunken dinner with several people posing as Russian contacts, and agreeing to do favors for them for money. This caused the coalition to collapse and the Government to resign. The question is, why did the makers of the video hold it for 2 years? The leader of the PP, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called for new elections. Some, such as Christian Zeitz, who spoke to us at dinner, speculate that he engineered the revelation of the video, so that in the next election the FP will receive many fewer votes and the PP will be able to form a Government without them.
Regarding the immigration issue, the Govt. of Kurz did allow a small number of Muslims to settle in Austria. Out of a total population of ca. 8 million there are ca. 600,000 Muslims (mainly Turks). The Govt. did enact legislation to control the situation, and is a leader in that respect. The Islam Law forbids foreign financing of Muslim activities and Imams (since Erdogan in Turkey was trying to control them) and requires all Muslim teaching to be carried out in German. Because of their refusal of accept these conditions, some communities were closed. They also forbid the use of burkas and radical literature. Also, immigrants must work. Recently, they have also banned the use of headscarves in elementary schools, because it is a clear sign of radicalism. Since the closing of Austria’s borders there is no more immigration, the Balkan route is closed. Germany is in fact paying off Erdogan to stop the flow of immigrants. Also, Italy has cracked down on traffickers who were actively pumping immigrants into southern Italy. They area now heading for Spain.
Chancellor Kurz of Austria is friendly towards the Jewish community and respects Israel. He has gone on record as supporting the security needs of Israel and also maintains friendly relations with some Arab States. Austria is more friendly towards Israel than the EU, but how this will work out in the future is uncertain.
We also heard presentations by: Eric Frey, a journalist educated in Princeton, who is Senior Editor of Der Standard, a centrist newspaper in Austria. He is Jewish and was born in Austria. And Dr. Thomas Grischany, former aide to the Austrian Interior Minister and teacher at the Webster University in Vienna. He described the situation of Muslim migration into Austria and the EU and suggested possible solutions that might avoid the Islamization of European society.