Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to begin with a few words which may sound unusual for today’s occasion.
In a few days, we will be commemorating the 1938 November Pogroms, when, in Germany and in Austria, thousands of Jewish shops, homes, cemeteries and synagogues were ransacked, destroyed and set on fire.
An unleashed mob harassed the Jewish population, setting the first, revolting milestone of this antisemitic reign of terror. On those days, hundreds of Jewish Austrians were murdered.
And yet, as if we had not really learned our lesson from these events, today, 81 years later, we are witnessing the rise of a new right-wing radicalism.
The terror attack targeting a synagogue in Halle, killing two people, should be a wake-up call for all those who, until now, were trying to downplay the significance of this phenomenon.
We must take a stand and, early enough, oppose these inhuman ideologies together. Everywhere, all the time.
Today’s Austria and antisemitism are opposites. Polar opposites.
Those who say antisemitism cannot say Austria. And it will remain that way.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In this context – and also, in stark contrast with what I just said – a grand occasion is bringing us together here, at the Jewish Museum in Vienna.
With the Ephrussi Family Archives, Vienna is receiving a true treasure as a gift, but it is even more than that: it is a rich, informative page of history.
More specifically, Vienna is receiving a page of its own history! A page, which features some of its brightest and darkest times.
It was the epicentre of a cultural apogee and the modern age of art, and also a pandemonium of inhuman ideologies and actions.
These two sides are diametrically opposed.
In Edmund de Waal’s book “The Hare with Amber Eyes”, readers experience these two extremes, a blossoming Jewish community life followed by hate and destruction.
This archive, which is now being exhibited here, represents this part of history and the story of a family, anchored in objects. In a way which could not be more exciting and moving, this exhibition showcases how a family’s history and History are intertwined and come together as a whole.
For this, I would like to extend my warmest thanks to the De Waal family, both in my personal capacity and on behalf of the Republic of Austria.
You have presented Austria with a gift which reflects your magnanimity and your fondness for our country. By doing this, you have also added a new chapter to the moving and disturbing story of your family.
And if I may give you my personal impressions, I would say that the last chapter of this story has yet to be told.