A Jewish area of the Vienna Central Cemetery suffered an arson attack on Wednesday, November 1st, as part of the estimated 165 antisemitic incidents in Austria since the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7th.
The fire in the Jewish area of the cemetery was deliberately set according to investigators who stated that two sources of fire were found, significant damage to the vestibule of a ceremonial hall and a gate within the cemetery, Kronen Zeitung reports.
Oskar Deutsch, president of the Israeli Religious Community (IRG), posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, with pictures of the aftermath of the attack, which included crude swastikas painted on the exterior of the hall, along with the word “Hitler,” a report from the Jüdische Allgemeine newspaper states.
“In the burned-out room, there were very valuable, old books and a Torah shrine without Torah scrolls. Everything destroyed. It is one of 165 confirmed anti-Semitic incidents since the Oct. 7 massacre. Dozens of incidents are still being investigated by the Antisemitism Reporting Office of the IKG,” he said.
Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister added, “The desecration of Jewish cemeteries is one of the most cowardly and disgusting forms of anti-Semitic violence!”
The attack comes despite Austrian authorities stating that police protection of Jews and Jewish sites would be increased following the Hamas massacre of over 1,400 Israeli civilians on October 7th.
The Vienna police released a statement on the incident saying, ”After the fire in the Jewish part of the cemetery in Simmering and the spraying of an outer wall with National Socialist symbols, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution is already intensively investigating.”
According to Kronen Zeitung, the police also stated that they were “focusing on the protection of Jews living in Austria,” adding, “That is why the focus is on protecting people.”
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer condemned the attack saying, “I strongly condemn the attack on the Jewish cemetery in Vienna. Antisemitism has no place in our society and will be fought with all political and legal means. I hope the perpetrators are identified quickly.”
Interior Minister Gerhard Karner, meanwhile, stated that hundreds of police were on the streets of Vienna due to Halloween and that they had intervened in several incidents that night, including an impromptu rally at the central Stephansplatz in which “numerous people were stopped after they had chanted antisemitic slogans and were reported to the public prosecutor’s office.”
The act is just the latest antisemitic incident in Vienna. Two weeks earlier, a man yelling “Allahu Akbar” smashed the window of a local kosher butcher shop and yelled “Free Palestine” before running away.
According to the Antisemitism Reporting Office, there were 76 antisemitic incidents in Austria from October 7th to October 19th alone, an increase of 300% compared to the prior year.
Austria is not unique in seeing a wave of antisemitism since October 7th. Germany has also seen an attempted arson attack against a synagogue in Berlin, while the German Federal Association of Research and Information Centres on Antisemitism (Rias) also noted a 240% increase in antisemitic incidents.
The attempted firebombing was widely condemned, with Gideon Joffe, chairman of the Jewish Community of Berlin stating:
85 years after the Kristallnacht pogrom, synagogues in Germany’s capital are burning again. The anti-Jewish violence on the streets of Berlin has thus reached a new dimension. Quite rightly, the security measures for Jewish institutions in Berlin have been increased. And it was probably possible to prevent even worse things from happening for the time being. But despite everything, Jews in our city no longer feel safe.
The Chair of the European Jewish Association, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, has also spoken out regarding the surge of antisemitism in Western Europe, claiming that every Jew in Europe feels threatened.