Austria acts after antisemitic attacks soar in Vienna

Fivefold increase in anti-Jewish incidents since October 7 prompts government to try to curb online abuse


Oskar Deutsch, president of the Jewish Community of Vienna (Photo: Jewish Community of Vienna)

Vienna suffered from an explosion of antisemitism last year in the aftermath of Hamas’s invasion of Israel, a new report has concluded.

The Reporting Centre for Antisemitism — an arm of the Jewish Community of Vienna similar to Britain’s Community Security Trust — found that there was a five-fold increase in the number of daily antisemitic incidents between October 7 and the end of 2023.

Prior to that, reported antisemitic incidents in Vienna had been in decline, with the average number per day going down from 1.97 in 2022 to 1.55 in the first nine months of 2023.

After October 7, however, that figure shot up to 8.31. After logging just 24 antisemitic incidents in September, the Reporting Centre for Antisemitism verified 200 in October, 226 in November, and 294 in December.

On Monday, the Austrian government announced a new package of measures to combat antisemitism online.

Constitutional affairs minister Karoline Edtstadler confirmed the government plans to intensify cooperation with social media providers and help develop AI systems that can more readily recognise and identify antisemitism and other forms of hate speech online.

The government also plans to increase support for online Holocaust education and fund a public awareness campaign on antisemitism.

“Past experience has shown that any escalation in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict automatically leads to a flare-up of antisemitism worldwide,” the Reporting Centre for Antisemitism noted, but the sheer volume of incidents after October 7 made 2023 a record year for antisemitism since the Jewish Community of Vienna began monitoring incidents in 2008.

The most high-profile incident occurred in November at Vienna’s Jewish cemetery, which was the subject of an arson and vandalism attack that remains under investigation.

Incidents of damage, desecration, and assault all increased in 2023, though Jews in Vienna were most likely to encounter Jew-hatred online.

While those with a far-right background remained the largest group of perpetrators, perpetrators with a Muslim background were responsible for the majority of antisemitic assaults and threats.

In October, a stone was thrown through the window of a kosher butcher’s shop in Vienna. The male attacker shouted “Allahu Akbar!” before running away.

The following month, a man who could be identified as Jewish because of his attire was walking down the street when another man approached him in a threatening manner shouting: “You’d better look where you’re going, you shit Yahud!”

“At the end of the day, from the victim’s point of view, it doesn’t matter who was responsible,” president of the Jewish Community of Vienna Oskar Deutsch said upon the report’s publication, calling the headline figure a “horror number”.

“We’re not letting the situation get us down”, Deutsch told the press, noting Jewish life in Vienna is continuing more or less as normal even considering the prevailing climate.

The Reporting Centre for Antisemitism praised “the decisive way Austria’s government and politicians spoke out against the terror attacks by Hamas”, widespread “opposition to antisemitism” within politics and civil society, and how Austria’s security services have protected Jewish lives and institutions.

Deutsch, however, called on the authorities to act more swiftly when it comes to prosecuting antisemitic incidents at anti-Israel demonstrations. “Antisemitism is not a trivial matter,” he said.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive