Record number of antisemitic incidents in Austria, according to latest IKG report
A total of 965 antisemitic incidents were reported to the Antisemitism Reporting Office of the Jewish Community of Vienna (IKG Wien) in 2021, according to its annual report.
This constitutes an increase of 65 percent compared to the previous year (585 incidents) and is the highest number of antisemitic incidents since recording began 20 years ago.
The brunt of the increase in the total number of incidents took place in the first half of the year, followed by a relative decline over the summer, and an intensification of incidents from the fall onwards.
The highest number of incidents was recorded in May (167). This was mainly due to the military escalation between Palestinian terrorist organizations in Gaza and the state of Israel and the increase in right-wing extremist activities that had already begun in late 2020 in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The second most recorded antisemitic incidents in the previous year were reported with
113 incidents reported in November; these were primarily in the context of new COVID-19 restrictions and the government’s announcement that vaccination would be mandatory.
The majority of reported incidents took place on social media (386) and elsewhere online (131). Additionally, 292 incidents were encountered by victims in person.
The report stresses that there are sometimes dozens of antisemitic comments on any given item on online fora. In these cases, they are always counted one incident.
Finally 99 e-mails and 52 letters with antisemitic content were reported, alongside three phone calls and two newspaper articles were reported in 2021.
The report stresses that this is not an overall account of antisemitism in Austria. As in previous years, a higher number of unreported incidents can be assumed. The only incidents counted are antisemitic incidents are counted that have been reported and reviewed by experts at the Reporting Office, on the basis of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism.
“You may find this annual report from the IKG’s Reporting Office for
Antisemitism disturbing,” said IKG President Oskar Deutsch, “but anyone interested in a serious discussion on antisemitism should not be alarmed by the headlines, but should read this annual report carefully instead.”
“We have to remember that the report only deals with antisemitism that is reported. The fight against the “rumour about the Jews”, as Theodor Adorno defined antisemitism, has to be fought on many different levels: by the IKG’s security department, the police and the army to protect life, and by educational and cultural initiatives, so that the prejudices don’t arise in the first place. Even though fighting this battle is not, after all, the primary purpose of our community, it has to be an inevitable part of life for us, because “never again” means our survival,” Mr. Deutsch added.
For IKG Wien General Secretary Benjamin Nägele, the record numbers are a wake-up call to Austrian society.
“In 2021, the Jewish community faced an unprecedented number of reports of abuse, harassment and other psychological and physical Assaults. Never since records began have so many people, including non-Jews, been affected by anti-Jewish agitation – and of course
the number of unreported cases must be far higher. Because of the dramatic increase in incidents in certain categories, we have even had to change our approach, and, in cases where are several antisemitic postings on the same subject, we only enter them in the statistics as one incident,” he stated.
The role of the IKG’s Reporting Office for Antisemitism is vital here: it makes antisemitism
visible, complete with all the ugly details. However, it also has another, far more important
function: it serves as a professional, confidential point of contact for anyone who is affected by antisemitism or has witnessed it. The experts at the Reporting Office record these incidents, offer professional support to the people reporting them and work closely with the IKG’s other institutions. ESRA, the IKG’s Psychosocial Centre, plays a key role in supporting both Jewish and non-Jewish people who have been affected by antisemitism,” Mr. Nägele concluded.