The Austrian Federal government is allocating €600,000 toward the rehabilitation of the historic, but long-neglected Währing Jewish cemetery in Vienna — €200,000 each year over the coming three years.
The allocation, announced last week, came at the initiative of Vice Chancellor and Culture Minister Werner Kogler (head of the Greens party), who visited the cemetery and met with Jewish community President Oskar Deutsch on the occasion.
Kogler said the move represented an important signal in the fight against antisemitism and in promoting coexistence.
“In times when gross anti-Semitic incidents and assassinations are increasing, we have to take a stand against anti-Semitism all the more. Jewish life was and is an important part of Austria,” he said in a statement on the Culture Ministry web site. The state financial support, he said, is “an important signal for me for good coexistence in our society and against anti-Semitism.”
Opened in 1784 in what is now Vienna’s northern 19th district, the cemetery served as the community’s central burial place until 1879. Around 8,000 preserved grave sites have been identified, but the number of people buried there is much higher.
The government grants will go to the Save the Jewish Cemetery in Währing Association, which was founded in 2017 to maintain, clean up and restore the cemetery.
All measures to clean up the gravestones and restore the cemetery grounds to a more accessible state will be undertaken in close consultation with the Austrian Federal Monuments Office and the Jewish Community Vienna. An academic advisory committee has been established, comprising historians, archaeologists, the Federal Monuments Office and representatives of the Jewish Community. This committee ensures that all planned restoration works take into account the requirements of Halakhah, or Jewish religious law, as well as scientific and other factors relevant to the preservation of historic monuments.
The Nazis, war, weather and many decades of neglect have taken a toll. Now, after years of struggle, a group of concerned people have formed a coalition to save the cemetery. It is our cultural responsibility to preserve this historic treasure for posterity. The Austrian Republic and the City of Vienna are taking an active part. The “Save the Jewish Cemetery in Währing” association is committed to raising the remaining funds needed. We are all working together to put this plan into action.
Here’s a video (in English) about the cemetery, from Secret Vienna: