Newsletter December 2023
In this, our last newsletter for 2023, we would like to inform you about the outcomes of the Board of Trustees’ meeting on 5 December and give you an update on the National Fund’s activities in recent months, as well as providing you with an overview of the new tasks and structures that will be in place from 2024.
Additional Tasks and New Structures for the Future
On 24 November 2023, the Austrian National Council unanimously adopted an amendment to the National Fund Law.
The National Fund will be taking on a number of additional tasks, such as administering subsidies for people doing memorial service and supporting international exchange programmes for young people. Another important new project will see the realisation of a memorial for Roma and Sinti Holocaust victims and the payment of a portion of the grave fees for Roma and Sinti Holocaust survivors. In future, the Fund’s work to collect and document the life stories of victims of National Socialism will also incorporate those of their families and descendants. The projects and activities of the National Fund will continue to take all victim groups into account, as they have done previously.
The National Fund will also provide a platform and hold an annual conference in order to deepen its working relationships and facilitate the exchange of information with national and international organisations and institutions involved in coming to terms with the Nazi period and carrying out prevention work in that context.
The amendment also foresees an adaptation to the organisational structure of the National Fund: four additional members will join the Fund’s Committee to further increase its scientific expertise and the Main Committee of the National Council will be involved in the appointment of a new two-member Managing Board.
The Extraordinary Disbursal of the Gesture Payment
On 20 September 2023, the Austrian Federal Government decided to make a one-off extraordinary disbursal of the gesture payment, in the amount of around 5,000 euros, to victims of National Socialism from Austria in accordance with National Fund criteria. According to estimates, around 3,500 to 4,000 people in over 50 countries worldwide are eligible to receive a payment.
In October, the National Fund sent out letters to potential beneficiaries and received a multitude of responses from survivors all over the world. Around 850 survivors have already received the extraordinary gesture payment; the oldest recipient so far is 105 years old.
Further information on the extraordinary gesture payment can be found here: https://www.nationalfonds.org/gesture-payment.
Additional Support for Holocaust Survivors from Austria in Israel
At its meeting on 12 October 2023, the Board of Trustees of the National Fund unanimously resolved to provide emergency aid to Holocaust survivors from Austria in Israel in the amount of 150,000 euros. This sum will be used to support the work of the Central Committee of Austrian Jews in Israel, which currently looks after around 400 Holocaust survivors from Austria and also provides financial assistance in special cases of need.
The project funding was distributed across the following categories:
- Education / Research / Science / Archives / Research: 17 projects
- Events – Theatre / Exhibitions / Symposia / Concerts: 21 projects
- Memorials / Memorial plaques / Commemorative events / Memorial trips: 9 projects
- Media – Books / DVD / CD / Documentary films / Audio books: 32 projects
In 2023, the National Fund’s Board of Trustees approved a total of 174 applications for project funding.
The project database provides an overview of all projects and programmes funded by the National Fund.
Simon Wiesenthal Prize 2023
From March to June 2023, entries could be submitted for the third edition of the Simon Wiesenthal Prize for special civic engagement to combat antisemitism and educate the public about the Holocaust. The National Fund of the Republic of Austria received around 200 entries from 30 countries worldwide – including Europe, North, Central and South America, the Middle East, South Africa and Australia. The youngest person to submit an entry is 17, the oldest 103 years old.
The Simon Wiesenthal Prize jury carefully examined all of these entries and, in October 2023, drew up a shortlist which it submitted to the Board of Trustees of the National Fund so it could choose the winners.
The following entries have been nominated for the Main Prize for Civic Engagement to Combat Antisemitism and Educate the Public about the Holocaust (listed in alphabetical order):
- AMCHA (Israel)
- CASA STEFAN ZWEIG (Brazil)
- JAN GRABOWSKI (Canada)
- LIKRAT - LET'S TALK! (Austria & Switzerland)
The following entries have been nominated for the Prize for Civic Engagement to Combat Antisemitism (listed in alphabetical order):
- ASOCIACIÓN CULTURAL MOTA DE JUDÍOS (Spain)
- ELNET (Germany)
- SOS MITMENSCH (Austria)
The following applications have been nominated for the Prize for Civic Engagement to Educate the Public about the Holocaust (listed in alphabetical order):
- ALOIS AND ERNA WILL (Austria)
- CENTROPA (Austria)
- HEIDEMARIE UHL (Austria)
The jury was particularly keen to pay tribute to the eyewitnesses nominated for the award. By talking about their experiences, these survivors provide compelling and valuable testimonies that are vital in the effort to come to terms with the Holocaust and take a stand against antisemitism.
The following contemporary witnesses will receive special recognition and be honoured at the event:
- HELGA FELDNER-BUSZTIN (Austria)
- JENO FRIEDMANN (USA)
- OCTAVIAN FÜLÖP (Romania)
- NAFTALI FÜRST (Israel)
- MARIA GABRIELSEN (Norway)
- VIKTOR KLEIN (Austria)
- OTTO NAGLER (Israel)
- KATHARINA SASSO (Austria)
- LIESE SCHEIDERBAUER (Austria)
- MARIAN TURSKI (Poland)
The Board of Trustees of the National Fund selected the winners of the Simon Wiesenthal Prize 2023 from the jury’s shortlist at the beginning of December, choosing a winner in each of the three categories.
The winners will be announced and the contemporary witnesses will be honoured in a ceremony held at the Parliament on 12 March 2024.
Study Trip for Teachers to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial
In October 2023, the National Fund and the Agency for Education and Internationalisation programme “ERINNERN:AT”, in partnership with the Teacher Training College Vienna, together organised for the first time a study trip for 23 secondary school teachers to the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial. With the help of the learning materials created for the preparation and follow-up work surrounding the visit to the memorial and exhibition as well as during the four-day study trip, the teachers familiarised themselves with the memorial and the new Austrian national exhibition and, together with a small team of experts, explored the potential challenges of a school trip to the site.
In November, the National Fund had its own stand at the Interpädagogica, Austria’s trade fair for the education sector, in Linz. The fair attracted around 12,000 visitors. The Fund presented the publications in the “Erinnerungen/Lives Remembered” book series, including the new Volume 7 on “Exile in New Zealand”.
European Holocaust Research Infrastructure
In 2023, the National Fund also participated in the process of constituting a national consortium within the scope of the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure (EHRI) project. The project’s goal is to create an easily accessible digital research infrastructure.
As part of the this year’s focus on “ego documents”, in October the National Fund organised an “EHRI-AT” seminar with erinnern.at and took part in the second “EHRI-AT” conference at the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Graz in December. The topics of the National Fund's contributions were “the processing of memoirs for the digital humanities and their use in educational work” and “first-person documents of victims of National Socialism as historical sources and their significance for an integrated history of the Holocaust”.
The Fund for the Restoration of the Jewish Cemeteries in Austria
At its meeting on 5 December, the Board of Trustees of the Fund for the Restoration of the Jewish Cemeteries in Austria approved the two restoration projects that had been recommended for resolution by the Advisory Board:
- At the Jewish cemetery in Währing, the renovation of a sub-area with 354 gravestones was approved and funding awarded in the amount of around 317,500 euros; to date, around 2 million euros in funding has been awarded for the restoration of this cemetery.
- General planning services were approved for the Jewish cemetery at Gate 4 of the Vienna Central Cemetery and funded awarded in the amount of approx. 538,000 euros. These services include master planning including object and damage surveys, restoration work and replacement planting; to date, around 1.4 million euros in funding has been awarded for the restoration of this cemetery.
On 12 October, members of the Board of Trustees and the Advisory Board of the Cemetery Fund visited the Jewish cemetery in Währing to see for themselves how the restoration work was progressing.
Since the establishment of the Jewish Cemeteries Fund in 2010, 65 renovation projects have been carried out at 17 Jewish cemeteries in Austria using approx. 12 million euros in federal funding.
The amendment to the Jewish Cemeteries Fund Law, unanimously adopted by the National Council on 24 November 2023, makes way for the work to restore the Jewish cemeteries in Austria to be continued for a further 20 years at an accelerated pace. In addition, the funds available for restoration projects have been increased to 1.2 million euros per year.
During the holiday period:
Our office will be closed from 25 December to 5 January. You can reach us again from Monday, 8 January 2024 during our usual opening hours.
We wish you happy holidays and a happy New Year 2024!
Your team at the National Fund