Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz arrived at the Western Wall on Sunday for a private visit that represents a break from standard procedure for European leaders.
i24 News Kurz also visited the Holocaust Museum and laid a wreath at the grave-site of the late statesman Shimon Peres, saying he had inspired many.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz visited Jerusalem’s Western Wall holy site and Yad Vashem Holocaust museum on Sunday, during a visit to Israel designed to soothe fears about his joint government with the far-right Freedom Party (FPO). Late last year Kurz formed a government with the FPO and appointed as his deputy its leader, Heinz-Christian Strache.
The party has a past stained by frequent anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi incidents and instances of Nazi propaganda. But today, the party is dedicated to ending Muslim immigration as well as the rising Islamization in Austria.
Ahead of his meeting with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Chancellor visited Jerusalem’s Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem. “As Chancellor of Austria, I have to state that Austria and Austrians carry a heavy burden for the shameful crimes committed during the Shoah,” he said during the visit.
“But let me assure you that we Austrians know that we are responsible for our own history. It is our duty and obligation to ensure that the Shoah [Holocaust] will never happen again and that my generation and succeeding generations will never forget these horrific crimes.”
The Chancellor announced a one-million Euro donation dedicated to help preserve Holocaust era works and documents and signed an “Agreement of Principle” which ensures that the museum will be granted access to the Austrian State Archives, the Mauthausen Memorial, and permission to copy Holocaust-related documents.
Kurz also executed along with Federal Minister Heinz Faßmann an agreement to facilitate Holocaust education in Austria by sending hundreds of teachers and administrators to Yad Vashem for educational seminars.
Kurz was also accompanied during his Yad Vashem visit by the Chairman of the museum Avner Shalev and Holocaust survivor Victor Klein as he laid a wreath at the memorial.
The Austrian leader, who previously served as foreign minister, also made an unscheduled trip to the Western Wall holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City. The European Union considers the site occupied because it was taken by Israel in the 1967 war, and Kurz subsequently dubbed it a “private visit.”
Around 50,000 Austrian Jews lost their lives in the Holocaust.
While Kurz is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, he has no plans to visit in locations controlled by the Palestinian Authority.