Austrian Catholic and Protestant churches apologize to Jews

(Photo: German National Archive via Wikimedia Commons)Cheering crowds greet the Nazis in Vienna, Austria after the country joins the Third Reich in 1938 in what has become known as the Anschluss. Credit: German National Archive via Wikimedia Commons.

The Catholic and Protestant churches in Austria have apologized for their anti-Semitism during and prior to the Holocaust.

The two churches issued two separate apologies on May 8, the day Austria commemorated the 70th anniversary of the end of World War 2, reported.

During that war, many Austrians supported their nation's annexation to Nazi Germany in 1938, and the country had a greater number of Nazi Party members per capita than in Germany.

Cheering crowds greeted the Nazis in Vienna, Austria after the country joins the Third Reich in 1938 in what has become known as the Anschluss.

The Catholic Church "must acknowledge its share of responsibility for the creation of a climate of disdain and hatred" for Jews before the Nazi period and the lack of "pity and solidarity with our Jewish fellow citizens" during the Holocaust, said Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the Associated Press reported.

The Austrian Protestant Council of Churches also expressed "particular shame" for "complicity against Jews and other groups ... that were considered 'unfit to live.'"

Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician who led the German onslaught that resulted in the slaughter of millions of Jews based on a system of racial superiority.

VE Day marked the final defeat of Hitler and the Nazis and the end of the war in Europe, but it was not the end of World War Two. It would take another three months to achieve Japanese surrender.

After the war a 10-year occupation of Austria by the allied forces began.

War heavily damaged the country and hunger and fear dominated in a climate where the future became uncertain.

The history of Vienna - once home to Jewish luminaries of 20th-century culture such as Sigmund Freud, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Arnold Schoenberg, but later Adolf Eichmann's testing ground for what would become the "Final Solution" that led to genocide of 6 million Jews - means its Jews are always on the alert, Reuters news agency reported.

"Vienna was a very important place for the fate of all European Jews because the automated driving out of Jews was perfected here," Joachim Riedl, author of books on Jewish history and Vienna, said at a recent lecture.

In 1923 nearly 11 per cent of Vienna's 1.86 million people were Jews, but in 2015 the Jewish population was around 7,000 of the Austrian capital's 1.5 million inhabitants.

Copyright © 2015 Ecumenical News