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Letter to the editor. My impression of Austria

My name is Michael Springer and I come from an interesting background. A few years ago when I heard the name Austria, I was thinking within the regular stereotypes. Now, after revisiting my family’s origin and getting to know many Austrians I must say my point of view is much different than it was before.

 

Five years ago I saw the best things Austria has to offer: the beautiful landscape and kind-hearted people. This is probably not a coincidence – the journey was mainly sponsored by the Austrian government, so they cleverly selected their best ,ambassadors‘ and most beautiful scenery. I realized why my family had settled in the area for many years and I felt 100 percent Austrian. This ten day trip was actually only the beginning of my journey. I discovered amazing facts about my family’s history and I feel like I have only scratched the surface. The best thing about this journey was creating lifelong relationships and getting to know my roots. I am passionate about transferring my family history to the next generations.

 

I must say that if we put aside these very important achievements I find Austria in 2014 to be a difficult and harsh place, full of bureaucracy and with little true, genuine desire to serve justice for whatever remains today of the once glorified Jewish heritage of Austria.

 

I admit that I am looking for some measure of financial justice. Any historian would tell you that my family among probably any other Jewish family in Austria suffered heavily (not only financially) during World War II. In my view, Austria contributed to this darkest time of humanity and was not the victim it claimed to be. I am sad to say that not enough has changed since then. My great grandmother, Valentine, fought for many years with the government to salvage small parts of her belongings. I have been struggling in an uphill battle with the authorities for the past five years in order to get back eight minor works of art that were given as a loan from Valentine to the Museum of Military History. I must wonder: Where is the rest of her art collection? I get a lot of support from the Jewish community and my Austrian friends but still, the feeling remains that the authorities are toying with us. It took them about three years to even look at our claims – each time delaying the process without any reason. After a lot of disappointments, finally they ruled in our favor. Then the endless bureaucracy started and is still going on today, five years into my journey. I feel as if Austria does not want to achieve even the slightest measure of justice, they only want to buy time and exasperate the lonely people who are fighting for justice.

 

Further good examples are the deadlines set by Austria to claim real-estate. As it turned out, my family had five major real-estate buildings/palaces in Austria. We understand that at least one of them was taken by force. Unfortunately we cannot even claim it since the deadline for real-estate had passed a few years earlier and it is not even possible to discuss it. For me, creating deadliness and endless obstacles is the opposite of fighting for justice.

 

I hope and believe we can achieve relative justice. I think it is not only important for individuals like me, it should be important for all Austrians as well.

 

Michael Springer

born in 1983 in Israel, is the great grandson of Valentine Springer (née Rothschild), lives in Jerusalem