Vienna, 10 November 2008 – "Anti-Semitism is still a social problem that needs to be taken seriously. It has not remained a historical phenomenon, but can, unfortunately, still be repeatedly observed today. No country is immune to revisionism, anti-Semitism and extremism," said State Secretary Hans Winkler at a high-calibre round table discussion at the Hofburg Palace on "Lessons learnt? Holocaust remembrance and combating anti-Semitism in 2008". The meeting was organised by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the International Holocaust Task Force (ITF) to mark the 70th anniversary of the anti-Semitic November pogroms.
"Due to its unprecedented nature the holocaust will be of universal significance for all time. However, we must not restrict ourselves to the discussion of historical forms of anti-Semitism, but must critically address current forms of anti-Semitism in academic and social terms as well. We all have the moral obligation to see to it that future generations also understand the causes of the holocaust and think about its consequences. This requires endeavours at all levels and in all areas, ranging from politics to civil society. Without any doubt, an indispensable prerequisite for this is easier access to information, studies and findings; information that has to be made available to an interested audience through the different media. In this context the work with contemporary eyewitnesses is of immeasurable value," stated Winkler, highlighting the work of the International Holocaust Task Force and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Austria currently chairs the ITF.
Winkler reminded his audience that when joining the ITF, the members declared their commitment to the "Stockholm Declaration", which, among other things, provides for the implementation and increased promotion of national policies and programmes in support of education and research in the field of the holocaust and its commemoration. "Prospects are good that things can be changed. But we have to act in concert and acknowledge the appalling truth of the holocaust vis-à-vis all those who deny it," stated Winkler. As the State Secretary explicitly emphasised: "The Austrian law banning Nazi activities is and remains an indispensable part of our legal system. It does not serve to restrict freedom of opinion but must be understood in the light of our own historical experience. Never again must we allow an ideology to circulate that aims at the humiliation, dehumanisation and, ultimately, the extinction of a population group."
Federal Ministry for European
and International Affairs
Mag. Katharina Swoboda
Office of the State Secretary
Tel.: +43 (0) 50 1150-3469