Reading „der Lindwurm“’s blog on an Austrian Nazi-guy in a Klagenfurt hospital I started wondering about how much really is left of Nazi opinion in Austria. As a matter of fact the whole topic never was anyhow important to me until – and this awas mostly good luck – I ended up going to Tel Aviv. The only story of my own I can share here is on Skinheads in the Austrian town of Ried – besides Braunau the one Upper Austrian town to be known for a serious Skinhead problem. When visiting friends in Ried as a teenager I got to know first-hand about a „Skins night out“ – even if only later I learnt the term to go with it. We were just enjoying ourselves when we heard drunken singing comming close. I couldn’t even understand the words but the locals knew very well. And they knew the night was over; we went back home and in the next morning I saw the windows that had been destroyed by multiple flying objects.
Skinheads, true, but I have always had that theory that if you shaved the head of some other drunk, hitting-each-other youthgroup and put them in the midst of a Skinhead gang nobody would recognize – and vice versa. (I would love to try this one day!) I have never perceived Skinheads as a problem of nazi revival, but rather as a problem of empty youth’s heads filled with the first brainless slogan that came their way, paired with violence aired at the first target available. There is no nazi motive behind scaring other teenagers and breaking random windows. All there is as a motive is the orgasm of power in a group.
However I have a very dear and good Jewish Israeli friend – who has never actually been to Germany and to Austria only later – who wouldn’t get tired of explaining to me that Germans and Austrians were racist, antisemitic nazis in the midst of their heard as if it was bred into both peoples. When I had her over for Christmas / Yule a year later she told me she was afraid. She told me to think twice whom I told she was a Jew. But she trusted me enough to come.
There sure is trouble when you are actively looking for it. My father – to whom I owe the delight in debates and politics – said one sentence she took as a sign for hidden antisemitism and she would be telling me she told me for the rest of her stay. It was the old thing about „The Jews killed Jesus“ she keeps pointing at as the cause of the inbred antisemitism of Europe. And of course he – he’s my dad, remember – said so exactly because I had dropped the phrase would send her ablaze. My father might be Christian, but he is no kind of after-the-book Christian, but one by heard and daily life. Even if „the Jews“ indeed killed Jesus it would be no more for him then – plain – history. Besides before S. got me started on the issue I had never heard a sentence like „The Jews killed Jesus“, nor had I ever been aware of anyone using it to push antisemitism.
What I was pretty aware of during and before those weeks she spent with me in Austria was the out-of-the-book Austrian hospitality that arose as soon as I announced her comming. People all the way from my family to my friends made such an efford! People kept my telephone busy asking questions about kosher cusine. My dad, for instance, who runs a restaurant had invited us over for the staff Christmas dinner. He’s normally doing Austrian cuisine full of pork, creamy sauces and butter as a basic ingredience to every dish imaginable. S. would just offer she’d stick to vegetables but by dad wouldn’t have any of it. I don’t know how many hours I spent on the phone with him figuring out how to change the dinner so S. would have a decent meal. Funny enough that way we created a dish – a kind of a chicken „Schweinsbraten“ – that has made it to his menue as a low-fat alternative afterwards. People at the dinner – as far as their English supported it – were really great too. They were so warm and interested in Israel and kosher kitchen. Not from the conflict-perspecitve and not from the Jew-as-something-odd-perspecitive but simply from the „What do you eat there?“ „What are beautiful places to go?“ „Do you ever get to see snow?“ kind of angle. Exactly this was the naive, genuine reaction of random Austrians to the first ever Israeli and Jew they had met.
My mom made an efford showing off Austria. I know she was absolutely enjoying it. So we drove down to Gmunden – which is were the Alps start – and though it was terribly cold and we had a good laugh about S. being clad like a Yeti it was magic. We took a cable car up one of the mountains driving over the mist that covered the valley. At the snowy top of the mountain we had a breathtaking view at mountain tops rising over the mist. It looked like in a cheesy movie and my mom nearly bust from pride when S. pointed out it could stand besides the view of the Himalaya.
No, as far as (Upper) Austrians go, there definitely is no imbred racism or antisemitism or alike. There wasn’t a single raise of an eyebrow during all the stay that would have let me assume somebody objecting S. as a Jew or Israeli. There weren’t any second thoughts on whom to have her meet or where to take her to. What was there, instead, was an overwhelming hospitality I’ve heard people report on but had, until then, never experienced first-hand. Hospitality and pride showing off a small country I openly declare deserves it.