The year 2020 was extremely challenging for the Jewish Welcome Service. The COVID-19 pandemic meant that the JWS was unable to operate its visitor program in the normal way. Instead, the focus shifted to crisis management and the development of alternative programs (including a compilation of online tours in Vienna).
Ruth Rotkowitz and Ralph Dressler visited Vienna in the fall of 2019 at the invitation of the JWS. Rotkowitz, whose parents escaped from the Nazis by fleeing Vienna as teenagers, deals with the “Second Generation” in her book “Escaping the Whale”. The book came out in April. Dressler reconstructed parts of his family history by researching archives in Vienna. He wanted to place memorial “Stones of Remembrance” for his family in May 2020 in Vienna. Unfortunately, this visit had to be canceled due to the corona virus.
In June, the president of the Jewish Welcome Service, Vienna’s mayor, Michael Ludwig, and the vice-president, Vienna’s City Councilor for Cultural Affairs, Veronica Kaup-Hasler, wrote a letter to the guests of the JWS. In it they expressed their regret for the postponement of planned visits to Vienna.
At the end of August, the JWS expanded its social media portfolio with its YouTube channel. The channel was set up to fittingly document a wide variety of events, to share information or send messages of greeting.
September saw an amendment to the Citizenship Act come into force, which enables persons persecuted by National Socialism and their direct descendants to acquire Austrian citizenship by making a so-called “declaration” instead of applying through normal channels. The JWS provides information about this.
In the middle of September, the journalist Olga Kronsteiner was awarded the Leon Zelman Prize at Vienna City Hall. According to the jury, Kronsteiner has “for many years dealt comprehensively with the disenfranchisement, deprivation, expulsion and persecution of Viennese Jews.”
The JWS established a new format for its remembrance work with the “Tours to places of Jewish life in Vienna”. On the first of these walks in mid-October, the scientist and author Gabriele Anderl led participants to places of Jewish life in Margareten (Vienna V). Contemporary witness Heinz Ehlers was also on hand to add his own comments to Anderl’s explanations.
The Jewish Welcome Service celebrated its 40th anniversary in December. A wealth of activities is being prepared for 2021 to mark the occasion – including a film documentary.