Vienna, 22 December 2009 – “With its pledge to earmark a total of 20 million euros for the restoration of Jewish cemeteries in Austria, the Federal Government has sent a clear and positive signal. The country is thus meeting its obligation under international law to implement the Washington Agreement. But more importantly, through this move Austria is also taking a decisive step in fulfilling its moral responsibility as regards respecting the dignity of Jewish cemeteries,” stated Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, commenting on yesterday’s solution agreed upon by the Federation, the representatives of the provinces and the Jewish community. The Jewish cemetery issue has been discussed in Austria for many years, and Spindelegger expressed confidence that, through their contribution, provinces and local communities would take up a decisive share in assuming responsibility for the preservation and upkeep of these cemeteries.
“It is particularly gratifying that this breakthrough, which has been desired for a long time, was achieved during the Hanukkah celebrations. Jewish culture and Jewish heritage are indispensable components of Austria’s cultural tradition and must therefore be recognised and preserved,” continued Spindelegger. The 2001 Washington Agreement, which regulates compensation and restitution for victims of the Nazi regime, contains a provision according to which Austria will provide support for the restoration and preservation of well-known and lesser-known Jewish cemeteries across the country.
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