Vienna’s main Jewish cemetery was hit by an arson and vandalism attack on Wednesday, as antisemitism continues to rise in Austria and across Europe in the wake of the Hamas assault on Israel.
Vienna police confirmed that shortly after 8 am, the city’s fire department was called out to Vienna’s central cemetery to deal with a blaze in the Jewish ceremonial hall where funeral services are held.
The site in the south-east of the city contains two Jewish cemeteries: the old cemetery and the newer, working cemetery, where the ceremonial hall, opened in 1928, is located.
Firefighters were able to extinguish the flames. Pictures shared by Oskar Deutsch, president of the Jewish Community of Vienna, showed that a room adjacent to the main chamber of the ceremonial hall had been burned out.
Police and criminal investigators are currently examining the cause of the blaze. In addition, the cemetery’s walls were vandalised with a swastika next to the word “Hitler”.
The attack was condemned by Austrian chancellor Karl Nehammer. “Antisemitism has no place in our society and will be fought against by any political and legal means necessary,” he said.
Opposition leader Andreas Babler of the Social Democratic Party said: “The protection of the Jewish community is of the highest priority. We stand side by side with Jews. ‘Never again’ is now.”
Deutsch urged those who wished to show their solidarity with the Austrian Jewish community to come to a demonstration being held on Thursday on Vienna’s Heldenplatz.
Organised by the local initiative Yes We Care, attendees are due to form a “sea of lights” for the Israeli hostages held by Hamas and against “antisemitism, terror, violence, and hate”.