Immigration: The Case of Austria

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.




Immigration: The Case of Hungary II

John O’Sullivan, who is a former editor of the National Review and now makes his home in Budapest, gave a very spirited and articulate presentation to the MEF group.  He explained two main topics, why Hungary under Victor Orban is different from all other countries in the EU, and why he moved there.  In relation to Victor Orban he has written widely on the subject. and just to be very brief, he regards him as a new form of national conservative, in other words on the right, but no longer a protest or populist movement (such as the Brexit Party in the UK, or the United Rally in France), but both a moderate nationalist (not radical) and a free market supporter (see  Some would say Victor Orban has gone too far in becoming less democratic and more authoritarian.  But, that is a matter for discussion.  Daniel Pipes summarized it nicely by saying that Orban doesn’t want to leave the EU (like the UK), but wants to take it over!

We discovered that some politically conservative people who are fed up with the leftist control of their countries, with the mass immigration of hostile elements and who seek greater security and quiet, are moving to Hungary,.  Many are now finding a haven in Hungary, and we met two Germans who have done this, escaping politically motivated hostility and seeking improved security.  The main problem is that you have to learn Hungarian!

Maria Schmidt is a historian and former adviser to PM Orban.  She initiated the Terror Museum in Budapest that documents the torture used by both the Nazi Gestapo and the Soviet KGB.  After WWI, Hungary lost 2/3 of its territory as well as groups of Hungarian-speaking peoples, especially to Romania.  But, it became a much more homogeneous and quieter country.  With the collapse of Communism there were the first partially free elections in 1980.  But, the liberals formed a coalition with the communists, for which they have never been forgiven.  Since 2008, Victor Orban has promoted a market economy and has increased his majority at each election since.  He wants to keep Hungary prosperous without mass immigration. Hungarians are determined that there be no repeat of living under Turkish rule! Also, Hungarians have never had colonies in Africa or the Middle East and do not see why they should have to accept migrants from there.  She pointed out that Jews in Hungary before WWII were part of the society, not separate as in Poland, and many more remained in Hungary than in any other country after the Holocaust.  Victor Orban is pro-Israel and philo-Semitic.  It is clear that he hopes Jews and Israel will support him in his campaign, and that is why he visited Israel and met with PM Netanyahu recently.  Daniel Pipes pointed out that Hungary and Israel are unique in having both conservative governments and increased population growth compared to all other Western countries.

When we met Rabbi Koves, I asked him about the controversy over the planned Hungarian Holocaust Museum that historian Maria Schmidt was supposed to be curating, but her interpretations were challenged by a group of eminent Holocaust scholars.  He would only comment that the matter was under review and would be resolved soon.  I did not raise this issue with Maria Schmidt, but today in the Jerusalem Post there is an article that reports that Maria Schmidt has been removed by agreement with the Hungarian Government as a curator of the “House of Fates” museum. 

Next we heard from Peter Kreko, Director of the Political Capital Institute, a centrist, who assured us that anti-Semitism is not a live issue in Hungary.  The Jews in Hungary are in no danger, there is no Muslim minority, no immigrants and no Islamic radicalism.  There is anti-Semitism in public opinion, like the Jews control the economy, but it is unfocused.  After the economic collapse of 2009 the Jobbik party was anti-Semitic, but it was replaced by Victor Orban and Fidusz, and the government now has good relations with the Jewish community and with Israel.  He refuted the claims that there is no free press or a lack of democracy in Hungary.  

We also heard from Boris Kalnocky, the correspondent for Die Welt German newspaper in Hungary, and Kent Ekeroth, a former member of the Swedish Parliament now living in Budapest.  Purely for reasons of space I will have to skip describing their interesting presentations.



Immigration: The Case of Hungary I

In our visit to Budapest, our group was granted an interview with Deputy Minister Balasz Orban (no relative of PM Victor Orban) in a very ornate meeting room inside the Hungarian Parliament building.  He spoke very persuasively about the need for Hungary to determine its own course and to protect itself against the mass immigration of foreign elements (see for example  The fact of the matter is that Hungary is a small homogeneous country in the middle of Europe and has no responsibility for events happening far away.  The feeling is that if they have problems they should solve them themselves, and the fact that Victor Orban’s Fidusz party was elected several times proves that the electorate supports him.  He erected barriers so that migrants could not enter Hungary illegally.  And this is now a legal case before the European Courts.

Seeing the problems in western Europe in countries that have allowed mass migration, such as France, Germany and Sweden, Hungarians are convinced that they did the right thing.  Also, to form a group of like-minded nations, the four countries Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have joined together in the Visegrad group.  They do not wish to leave or destroy the EU, rather they wish to persuade the EU of the rightness of their actions.  I mentioned that I had experienced anti-Semitism when I was in high school in England from a Hungarian emigre from the anti-Communist uprising  in Hungary in 1956.  He assured us that although Fidesz is a right-wing, nationalist party it is nevertheless not anti-Semitic, what would be the point, that is not in their interest, and furthermore they are pro-Israel, as Victor Orban’s recent visit to Israel shows.

We then met with the Chabad Rabbi Slomo Koves, who is effectively the Chief Rabbi of Hungary, at the Obuda Synagogue that survived the War.  He was a charming man, native of Budapest, but fluent in English having studied in Pittsburgh.   He stated that life for Jews is good in Hungary.  Many thousands of Jews had survived the Shoah and the communist era and were now accepted as native to Hungary.  He pointed out that there were no guards at the entrance to the Synagogue, because there was no need for them, since most of the anti-Semitic incidents throughout Europe were caused by Muslims, and there were very few in Hungary.

When challenged on the anti-George Soros media campaign carried out by Victor Orban, that many considered anti-Semitic (George Soros is a Hungarian Jew who survived the Shoah, amassed a fortune and is very leftist and anti-Israel), the Rabbi replied that they were concerned about this too and had conducted their own media survey, asking Hungarians randomly what they think of when they see the image of George Soros, and only 2% said “Jew”.  From experience he is sure there is no strong anti-Semitic feeling now in Hungary, and he has very good relations with Victor Orban and the Government.  This was an eye-opening meeting for us.  

We had a further series of lectures from several experts and personalities in Budapest, that I will describe in a later blog post.

Immigration: The Case of Poland

Surprisingly, in our visit to Poland, the first place we visited was the Muslim Mosque and Community Center in Warsaw. It is a very modern building, paid for by Saudi money. We were greeted by a delightful young woman who spoke perfect English.  She is Polish and went to London to study, where she had a Muslim boyfriend who introduced her to Islam.  Eventually she broke with him, but became fascinated by Islam, converted in London and went to Qatar to study Arabic.  Now she is the custodian of the Muslim Center.  She answered questions very openly and we had a pleasant visit there.   I told her she was a “poster girl” for Islam, in the sense that she is very moderate and integrated into Polish society, certainly not typical of immigrants.  There are in fact very few Muslim immigrants in Poland since the Government in 2015 agreed to take 1,000, and eventually reduced that number and ended up taking only 94 (most of the others went to Germany). Fortunately Poland was not on the main route of immigration from Greece and Italy towards Germany, Sweden and the UK.

The first speaker in our lecture series in Warsaw was Boguslaw Winid, from the Office of the President, responsible for foreign policy and security, including immigration.  He gave us a summary of the history of Poland, emphasizing that Poland lost its independence in 1795 for 123 years until the end of WWI.  It lost it again in 1939 when it was divided between Germany and Russia.  After WWII Poland was a communist satellite for 40 years until the collapse of communism.  Poland has generally been a country of emigration, not immigration, with 3 million Poles and Jews emigrating mainly to the US before the 1920’s. Now Poland is in the EU there is in principle free movement, and Poland has developed economically with a 4% GDP  and only 4% unemployment.  There are two main groups of immigrants into Poland, Ukrainians and Vietnamese!  The Civic Forum has exploited the massive immigration into western Europe to sow fear among Poles.  There was no discussion of Jewish restitution, which the Poles have deliberately avoided.

Greg Lewicki, a political analyst who studied at LSE, referred to Arnold Toynbee’s concept of an internal proletariat, that nowadays is identified with Muslim immigration.  He introduced the concept of State Power Index, and noted that the Islamic States are low on that index. He criticized “political correctness” and gave examples.  But, Eastern Europe as opposed to Western Europe has not been exposed to this kind of cultural trauma.  Poland is a more homogeneous and religious country that Western Europe.

Constantin Gebert is a Jewish Pole, a journalist, whose family survived the Holocaust and remained in Poland.  He grew up in Warsaw and considers it his home. He believes as a Jew it is his moral obligation to help immigrants.  If he saw a family in a boat he would have no hesitation in helping them to immigrate.  But, he accepts that there must be limits to immigration. Immigrants have rights, but they must also accept obligations.  Fortunately in Poland it is not relevant, since Poland is not a country of mass immigration.  But, the fear is being used politically by the right.

Dariusz Stola is Director of the Polin Museum.  He explained how the museum came about as a collaboration between the City of Warsaw, the Polish Ministry of Culture and the Inst. for Jewish Research (YIVO) in Poland and America.  Although American Jews provided a lot of the funding, the largest single donor was a Catholic Pole.  They also had significant contributions from Germany and Norway, that earmarked funds for education.  The Museum is located in an area that was the Jewish part of the city and the Ghetto during WWII.  Before WWII, Warsaw was the largest Jewish city in Europe and the Museum is intended to tell the history of the Jews in Poland, not exclusively focusing on the Holocaust, although there is a section that does.  Their biggest group of visitors are Polish children who go in school groups, over 450,000 have been, and there is a remarkable interest in things Jewish in Poland.  The second largest group of visitors are Israelis.  They started a yellow daffodil project proposed by Marek Edelman to remember the Ghetto uprising, and they distributed 200,000 of them.  They started a project for children to research the history of Jews in their town and each city must do something, that is on their web-site.  They were voted European Museum of the year in 2018.

In a previous blog (May 29) I wrote about the presentation of Gregorz Lindenberg, a sociologist who presented population data, including statistics on immigration and projections of future population growth.  His was the most fact-based and in a way the most frightening presentation.  If his predictions come true there could be a massive wave of up to 200 million immigrants mainly from Africa invading Europe in the next 50 years.  He predicts there will be conflicts between locals and immigrants.  I asked if he thought they might resolve the problem with concentration camps.

The last speaker in Warsaw was Adam Bodnar, the Government Ombudsman.  He is a human rights lawyer who once worked for the Polish organisation “Never Again!” In his office he was 300 lawyers and he prosecutes many cases of discrimination.  Before 2015 the majority of cases of hate speech were against Jews and gays, but after 2015 it is against Muslims.  He was prepared to discuss the issue of Jewish restitution.  He pointed out that beyond the Bug river in the east people get ca. 20% of the value of the property.  But, in the rest of Poland, if you can prove ownership with documentation and you have skillful lawyers you can regain property or get compensation, but it is difficult.


Anniversaries – June 5, 1944 and 1967

Two anniversaries that occur on June 5, in 1944 and 1967, mark the beginning of hope and survival for me.  June 5, 1944, was the original D-day, that was put off for one day because of bad weather in the English Channel, but was in fact the day the Allied invasion of France began.  June 5, 1967, was the beginning of the Six-Day war that resulted in the destruction of the Egyptian and Syrian air forces on the ground and the successful war of survival for the Jews in their Homeland, Israel.

Today there was much commemoration and celebration in France, on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, with the leaders of the Allied countries, the USA, UK, Canada, France and others, taking part. These landings were a great armada, a huge gamble, but ultimately a successful one.  They marked the beginning of the end of Nazism and Hitler.  On the eastern front the Battle for Stalingrad that ended on Feb 2, 1943, marked the reversal in military fortunes there.   It took just over a year from the Allied landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944, until  the signing of the German surrender on Sept 2, 1945.  The landings and the capture of Normandy cost ca. 200,000 Allied soldier’s lives.  A terrible cost, as shown in the many military cemeteries that dot the region inland from the beaches.  Note that Jews fought in all the Allied armies, and especially in the Red Army, that included ca. 500,000 Jews.

But, there will be no international or even Israeli commemoration of the Six-Day War of June 1967, that nevertheless changed the future of the Middle East and of Jews forever.  In June, 1967, the Egyptians, Syrians and Jordanians formed an alliance to destroy Israel.  Israel was alone in facing this planned onslaught.  At first even the USA under Pros. Nixon would not support Israel.  Once the Egyptians closed the Straits of Tiran in May to block the port of Eilat and the UN left the Sinai peninsula (contrary to international agreements), it was clear that there would be war.  The Arab world was in a state of euphoria, believing Pres. Nasser that Israel would soon be destroyed,  But, Israel’s Air Force struck first, destroying 90% of the Egyptian Air Force on the ground.  After that it was a large mopping up operation in which the IDF defeated the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian armies and were on their way to Cairo, Damascus and Amman.

Just as the D-Day landings meant that Britain was safe from Nazi invasion, so the Six-Day war meant that Israel was safe from destruction by the armies of the surrounding Arab States.  Yes, there were further wars, in Europe in 1944-5 and in Israel in 1973 and 1982, but the Six-Day War was the turning point in Israel’s survival.  Without the brave men who fought and died in Normandy in June, 1944 and the brave Jews who fought and died in the Six Day War in 1967, I would not be here writing this to you today.   


The Izlamization of Europe

Muslims tried to conquer Europe by force three times in the past:

  • In 732 ce the French King Charles Martel with his army stopped an invading Arab army from Spain at Poitiers in southern France.  Note that Islam did not spread because it is a peaceful religion, but was spread by armies.  They burst out of Arabia soon after Mohammed died in 632 ce, and conquered Jerusalem in 639, North Africa in 652 and Andalusia in 711.  Since anyone who did not become a Muslim was an infidel, a lot of killing went on.  Jews and Christians were supposed to be exempt, because Muslims regard their books (the Bible and the New Testament) as holy, but often that didn’t work in practice.  But, the victory at Poitiers, 100 years after Mohammed’s death, stopped the spread of Islam and saved Europe from the wave of Islamic conquests. 
  • Much later when the Caliphate had shifted to Turkey, twice Christian armies defeated Turkish armies at Vienna, which was the capital of the Habsburg Empire.  In 1529 and in 1683 the Turks besieged Vienna.  In 1683 at the battle of Kahlenburg Mountain (which we visited), the entry of the Polish King John Sobieski with 100,000 mainly Polish troops resulted in the final defeat of Muslim attempts to conquer Europe by force of arms.  The consequences for the Turkish Empire of this defeat were significant, as detailed by Bernard Lewis in “What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response.”  Suffice to say they never did catch up.

However, things have changed drastically since then  Islamic infiltration of Europe, whether deliberately planned or as a result of ad hoc events, has been continuing apace.

  • There have been terrible Islamist terrorist attacks all over the continent, in Madrid, London, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Cannes, Glasgow, Milan, Toulouse, and so on; there were 8 deaths in 2012, and 150 in 2015!
  • “No-Go” Areas: In the banlieue around French cities there are no-go areas where the French police are afraid to enter.  Any police car that ventures in there is attacked and burnt.  The French Government needs to take back control of these sovereign areas using the Army, but it won’t.  They have become effectively Muslim-controlled areas of France that will gradually expand as more and more Muslims move in and are born.  They will become the nucleus of a Muslim-dominated France and Europe unless something drastic is done.
  • Muslims attack individual Jews, with knives and other weapons, throughout Europe, who have any outward sign of being Jewish, especially a yarmulka (kippa).  What is the advice of the German official in charge of anti-Semitism?  That Jews should not wear kippot, not that Muslims should stop attacking Jews.  So Jews must once again hide their identity in Europe for fear.  In London I was advised not to wear a Magen David around my neck, especially in the Underground, since there is a wave of young people attacking Jews wearing them and snatching them.
  • Recently both Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany and Pres. Macron in France effectively stated that there is no longer such a thing as “German” or “French” culture.  It has all been ceded to a multicultural milieu in which practically anything goes.
  • Muslim massacres of Christians have been going on throughout the centuries, in 1914 the Turks massacred about 150,000 Greek Christians in Smyrna (Izmir) and in 1915 the Turks carried out genocide against the Armenian Christian minority, murdering ca. 1.5 million.  In 1920, Iraqi Muslims massacred about 200,000 Chaldean/Assyrian Christians, and this continues even until today.  In Syria, Aramean Christians have been systematically murdered.  The Coptic Christian minority in Egypt (ca. 10%) have been continually attacked and murdered, even until today.  The formerly Christian city of Bethlehem in the Palestine Authority has gone from 80% to 20% Christians in 25 years.  Will this process stop if they live in Europe?

There are now estimated to be ca. 19 million Muslims in the EU, and a total of 54 million Muslims throughout Europe (including Bosnia) and the number is growing.

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, like London, was the capital of a large empire, and the architecture and buildings reflect that.  Vast palaces, huge war ministries, large statues of men on horses, wide boulevards, linked by narrow labyrinthine alleys.  After WWI the Habsburg Empire was dismantled and reduced to ethnically-uniform States, according to the preferences of US Pres. Woodrow Wilson, including Austria and Hungary.  Austria never quite got over its demotion from capital of an Empire to a small central European State. Some former components (colonies) were lumped together in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia (the south Slavs), which much later split again into many smaller parts (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Kossovo).

To the east Vienna is flat, but to the west begin the first foothills of the Alps, and that is from where Vienna got its name, Wien, from the wine grown actually within the city limits. During our bus tour of the city it was quite startling to hear the guide say that Beethoven wrote his 9th symphony in that house, or that Mozart gave his first concerts there.  There were of course many famous Viennese Jews in the 19th and 20th centuries, including Sigmund Freud, and most of the rich Jews had their houses around the famous Ringstrasse that followed the line where the first city walls had been.  There was some damage in Vienna during WWII, most of it took place when the Soviet Forces reached the Danube River and a pitched battle took place between them and the defending German forces.

We had an old Austrian man as our guide for a walking tour of the city.   We started at the official Holocaust monument, that is not very impressive, and walked for several hours.  This guide took the standard Austrian line, that Austria did not exist as a separate entity during WWII, but after the Anschluss was incorporated into Hitler’s Third Reich.  That all the Jews who were killed were Austrians and so they don’t report the numbers separately, that many Austrians died at the hands of the Germans, and so on.  I asked him point blank how many Austrians were killed during WWII and he said 1 million (out of a total of ca. 7 million then), but I looked the number up afterwards and it was a total of ca, 120,000 of whom ca. 65,000 were Jews.  I complained about his lack of accuracy.

Later we took a walking tour of the Jewish districts.  In Vienna’s history there were three. The first was in the ancient walled city, that thrived until 1420 when there was a terrible massacre and all Jews were killed.  The area is now known as the Judenplatz, where there is a more effective Holocaust memorial, in the form of a concrete library with the book’s spines inside.  The second was the ghetto in the 16-17th centuries across the river on the other side of Vienna and there we saw the site of the great synagogue that was of course destroyed in WWII.  As Austria became more enlightened in the 19th century, the Jews spread into central Vienna and along the Ringstrasse.  They formed the cultural, intellectual and scientific elite of the country before they were cruelly expelled and murdered.  There are small brass plaques on the sidewalk with the names of those who had lived in adjacent buildings (stolperstein or stumbling stones).  Today there are some ten thousand Jews living in Vienna, including many ultra-Orthodox.  We went to a kosher bakery in the Jewish district and had lunch there.  

There had been ca. 80 synagogues in Vienna before WWII, but only one of them survived.  It did so, as in other places where we saw surviving synagogues in Amsterdam and Berlin, because it was part of a much larger building and to blow it up or burn it would  have caused great damage to non-Jewish areas.  We visited  the Stadttempel, which was constructed in 1824 and has a circular rotunda, and were given a complete history by an excellent guide in English.  It was renovated and is still in use today.