Austrian Jews fight Israel over community history

Members of the Austrian Jewish community have begun legal action against a Jerusalem archive over a collection of documents about Viennese Jewry.

Before the Holocaust Vienna was home to a thriving Jewish population, but the Nazis murdered an estimated 65,000 Austrian Jews.

In the wake of the Holocaust, papers amounting to around 40 per cent of all historical sources on the community were sent to the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem for safekeeping.

But 66 years later, the community wants the material back and has filed a lawsuit in Jerusalem.

The president of the Austrian community, Ariel Muzicant, said the case was necessary because "we are establishing ourselves again and we want to have these things back in Austria.

"There are researchers and historians here who speak German and have great interest" in the documents."

The director of the archive, Hadassah Assouline, said the postwar loan was based on the understanding the documents would remain in Israel. She said the archive would not agree to return the documents.

Last updated: 3:20pm, May 20 2011