NEWS DESK | As Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen arrives in Jerusalem for an official visit, i24NEWS gives you a deeper look on the history of the two countries’ relationship with one another and the concerns of both Austria and Israel on anti-Semitism. Our Ellie Hochenberg has the story. 

The Austrian president, Alexander Van der Bellen, was welcomed by his Israeli counterpart on Monday, as he began a visit of the Jewish state. Israel’s Reuven Rivlin welcomed the statesman ‘as a true friend of the State of Israel and of the Jewish people.’ The Austrian president addressed the two countries’ shared history, starting with Theodor Herzl. 

According to Van der Bellen, the early Zionist figure ‘was a great Austrian and the seer of the Jewish state, the spiritual father of the State of Israel.’

‘Our terrible history also connects us. Tens of thousands of Austrian Jews were murdered by the Nazi regime, and many others were expelled,’ Van der Bellen said. ‘I say here loud and clear: Austria bears shared responsibility for the Holocaust. Many Austrian citizens took part, and we bow our heads in memory of the victims in humility and respect,’ he added.

Austrian politicians have lately made unprecedented strides in recognizing their country’s share of responsibility in the Holocaust.

‘As Austrians, we have to be honest when we look back at our past, as Austria was not only a victim, but also a perpetrator. But we must also look ahead to the future. We can’t undo history but we can do justice to our history,’ chancellor Sebastian Kurz said at a Kristallnacht memorial last November.

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