Amstetten, Austria


Austria’s all over the news these days. Precisely a small town – rather a village – called “Amstetten” in Lower Austria. I even seen a several-minutes clip on CNN yesterday and found an article in a Australian newspaper. I guess last time so many media paid attention to Austria was the Kurt Waldheim-affair back in the last century. Bad news are good news, that is a given in the broadcasting world.

But another given is that there was quite a lot of bad luck involved. For Austria’s image, I mean. For some reason right now we are seing the biggest global news hole since quite a while since the media got tired of reporting on Tibet and China for the situation just stays unchanged freightening. And now some really bored CNN-journalist seems to have found out about a really cruesome, broadcast-able story from Lower Austria.

Don’t get me wrong: What happened there is disgusting. I can’t even think of a punishment that would fit the occasion and I don’t dare consider how those human beings feel and felt like over all those years. It’s a humanitarian catastrophe and there are, for sure, a million things Austrian officials could have done to avoid it. Plus it fits in a rather cruel picture of Austria taking into account that something quite similiar happened to another Austrian woman, Natascha Kampusch, just one and a half year ago. And both times the women’s fathers seem to have had something to do with that (though in the case of Ms Kampush the conviction is still pending).

Yet I doubt it’s an Austrian speciality to hide one’s daughters in the basement or have them hidden. I bet there are hundreds or even thousand basements just like that all arround the so called “civilised” western world and even more thousands within the overpopulated areas of the “second” and “third” world where in many regions human live isn’t worth more then a couple of warm meals (which on the other hand are pure luxory for many). And I bet especially in nations as big as the US there are some of them freed every once in a while but the news never makes its way to Europe because nobody cares. Or, even if this leads down a rather cruel road, because it’s too normal to get people seated in front of the TV station. With it happening in the country of “the sound of music” it’s different. People needn’t consider what might be happening next door because it happenend “over there”, so reassuringly far away, on another continent. And for there seem to be more and more Americans (cognitively) on the run from the country they were raised in, it is something to show off that Europe too is a place where there is evil. Of course there is. As much as we might wish for it there’s not Gan Eden, no Garden of Eden. Neither in the USA as my 1990ies-generation used to believe when we were young, nor in Europe. All there is is different kinds of hell. Or self-made paradises.

In one way the reporting about Amstetten could be beneficial: To remind all of us that there is evil out in the world. And it might be just next door. We can look away but eventually it’s comming out and then it will look rather stupid to say “we didn’t know” … Rather stupid, in fact, even to usself.

Today in Israel it’s Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, the celebration of the day when the death camp of Auschwitz was liberated – in the hebrew calendar – and perhaps this is what the day wants us to remember: The Shoah, the catastrophe, didn’t go away because people looked away. It doesn’t on the small scale, as in Amstetten, and it definitely won’t on the big scale as in Tibet / China …

yom hashoah shalom




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