In mid-October, 20 Jews – mostly members of the “Second Generation” – visited Vienna at the invitation of the Jewish Welcome Service. Due to the Hamas terror attack on Israel on October 7, guests from Israel were unable to travel, and increased security measures were in place for guests from the US, Australia, and England.
This was the first time that a group had been accompanied by security forces during their Vienna visit, and the tension was palpable throughout. Nevertheless, the comprehensive and diverse itinerary was carried out as usual. Accordingly, the group was welcomed not just by Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen, but also by City Councilor for Culture Veronica Kaup-Hasler at Vienna City Hall and Federal Minister Karoline Edtstadler at the Federal Chancellery.
Tracking down the past
Among the guests was Mort Soroka, whose mother fled to the US following the November pogroms in 1938. “My mother,” he recounted, “was just eleven years old when she was forced to flee alone.” For Joanna Bryk (75) from London, the visit to Vienna was not an easy one either. Her father was deported to Dachau after the November pogroms, managed to flee to England in 1939, and later returned just once. “I’m trying,” said Bryk to “Die Presse”, the Viennese daily newspaper, “to heal for both of us. To gather information here and recognize the processing that has taken place in Austria.” Financial advisor Joel Hochberg (63) had traveled from Australia to try and track down his family’s past in Vienna. He found it, among other places, on a “Stone of Remembrance” in the fourth district, in memory of his grandparents, who were murdered in the Holocaust.
During their wide-ranging stay, the group visited not only sights and central places of Jewish life in Vienna, but also important memorials such as the Shoah Wall of Names in Vienna’s Ostarrichi Park. Some of the visitors took the opportunity to do biographical research in the archives of the Jewish Community.
The group’s stay was sponsored by the Federal Chancellery.