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En Route to Eretz Israel, Austria, 1940's

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On the way to a gathering point, en route to Eretz Israel, Austria, 1945-1948.
The Oster Visual Documentation Center, ANU - Museum of the Jewish People

Photo period:
between 1945 and 1948
Photo period:
between 1945 and 1948
ID Number:
117947
Image Purchase: For more details about image purchasing Click here, make sure you have the photo ID number (as appear above)
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Austria

Republik Österreich - Republic of Austria

A country in central Europe, member of the European Union (EU). 

21st Century

Estimated Jewish Population in 2018: 9,000 out of 9,000,000 (0.1%). Main umbrella organization of the Jewish communities:

Bundesverband der Israelitischen Kultusgemeinden Österreichs – IKG (Federation of Austrian Jewish Communities)
Phone: 43 1 531 04 0
Fax: 43 1 531 04 108 
Email: office@ikg-wien.at
Website: www.ikg-wien.at

 

HISTORY

The Jews of Austria

1244 | With Compound Interest

The tendency to view the Jews as a foreign implant practicing strange customs and lifestyles has often brought about discriminatory legislation and restrictions on their freedom of occupation. It was none other than Friedrich the Second Frederick II , Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (a political entity of the Middle Ages, based in Vienna) who understood the advantages of Jewish uniqueness, which manifested among other things in the fact that Judaism, unlike Christianity, permitted money lending. And so, in the year 1244, the Emperor bestowed upon the Jews of Austria a bill of rights, which encouraged them to practice money lending and gave them physical protection, the right to self-jurisdiction and the right to collect taxes within the community.

During this period some of the most important rabbis of Ashkenaz moved to Vienna. These rabbis, known as “The Wise Men Sages of Vienna” or “The Great Ones of Osterreich Oesterreich” (Austria,) built the largest beit midrash in Central Europe at the time in Vienna. Foremost among them was Rabbi Issac Ben Moses, whose guide to halacha (religious law), titled “Or Zarua” (“Planted Light Light Is Sown”) became one of the bedrock texts of the yeshiva world.

Frederick II Friedrich may have meant well, but in many ways he may have been responsible for the birth of the antisemiticanti-Semitic stereotype of the Jewish usurer. Today it is hard to determine whether that stereotype had any basis in reality, but documents from the time show that money lending and tax collection were very prevalent occupations among Austrian Jews, which could hardly have helped ease relations with the general Christian population.

1420 | King of the Jews

On July 6th 1415 the Czech revolutionary Jan Hus, considered one of the forerunners of the Reformation, was executed. His anti-Catholic ideas, among them viewing the Bible as the supreme source of authority and rejecting the polytheistic elements of Catholicism, were consistent with the core values of the Jewish religion, and therefore aroused suspicion that the Jews were collaborating with him. The equivalency drawn by Catholics between Hus and the Jews spread throughout Central Europe and reached its peak in Austria, which severely worsened its treatment of Jews.
In 1420 the Jewish community of Austria reached an unprecedented nadir when one of the leading figures of the city was accused of Host desecration desecrating the Eucharist. Some 200 Jews were burned at the stake as punishment. At that time Austria became one of the first countries in Central Europe to expel its Jews.
The luck of the Jews turned for the better in 1469, when Frederick III Friedrich the Third – whose kind treatment of the Jews gave him the nickname “King of the Jews” - ascended to the throne and annulled the expulsion edict against them.

1670 | From Bad to Worse

In the years 1564-1619, during the reigns of Maximilian II Maximilian the Second, Rudolph II the Second and Matthias, the influence of the Jesuits in Austria grew, and the condition of the Jews deteriorated. Even before that, during the reign of Ferdinand the First I, they were forced to pay heavy taxes, and to wear the sign of shame, the infamous yellow star which would inspire the Nazis some 300 hundred years later. But the low point was reached during the reign of Leopold the First I, under whom Jews were regularly persecuted and even expelled from Vienna in 1670 (although they gradually returned to it.)

Leopold's despicable treatment of the Jews did not stop him from using the services of Samson Wertheimer, one of the most famous “court Jews” in history, considered the richest man in Austria at the time. Wertheimer did all he could to help his Jewish brethren, and among other accomplishments prevented the expulsion of the Jews of Rothenberg and published the Babylonia Babylonian Talmud in Frankfurt.

1782 | The Apple Falls Far From the Tree

Following the partition of Poland and the annexation of Galicia to Austria, hundreds of thousands of Jews were added to the subjects of the Habsburg Empire. It should be noted that until the early 19th century, most Jews under Habsburg rule lived outside the territories of the modern Republic of Austria.
Maria Theresa, ruler of the empire, was ambivalent in her approach to the Jews. On one hand she availed herself of the financial skills of the richer ones among them to pad the royal treasury, and on the other she harbored a deep anti-Semitic hatred towards them, probably due to being a devout Catholic. So she granted titles and honors to those who were of use to her and whispered brilliant financial advice in her ears, and denied rights to all the rest, leaving them to persecution and daily outrages.

Her son and heir, Emperor Joseph the Second II, fell far from the tree. In 1782 Joseph issued his famous edict of tolerance Edict of Tolerance, which called for the integration of Jews into general society in accordance with the values of the age of enlightenment Age of Enlightenment. The edict abolished many restrictions that applied to the Jews, and permitted them to study at institutions of higher learning and to hire Christian servants. But the edict had some fine print as well: In return for the reforms, the Jews were required to blur their identity and reclusive tendencies. Among other thingsthings, they were forbidden to use Yiddish or Hebrew in official documents, their community authorities were restricted and the right to marry was only given to those who graduated from school. The edict was met with mixed emotions. The Jews realized that integration into general society was unavoidable, even if the price – blurring their identity and renouncing their faith – was not always to their liking.

1867 | Who's The Elitist?

While Joseph's “Edict of Tolerance” did indeed indicate a significant change in the treatment of Jews and enabled their integration into society, it mostly applied to those determined to be “tolerably Jewish” - and even those were not allowed to buy houses and were burdened with special taxes. At the same time the edict helped establish a cultural atmosphere that opened a broad window for Austrian the Jews of Austria onto the ideas of the enlightenmentEnlightenment. This caused a change in the hierarchical structure of the Jewish community. Between the 16th and 18th centuries, one of the tickets to the Austrian-Jewish elite was the mocking appellation “Court Jew” - but in the 19th century the Jewish elite consisted mostly of those who demonstrated impressive intellectual capacities, and not necessarily those who served high-placed masters.

During the 19th century intellectual life in Austria began to kick into high gear. Vienna became a center of Hebrew literature. Various magazines and periodicals, among them “Bikurei Haitim” and “Kerem Hemed” were published, and many intellectuals, including Naftali Herz Homberg, Shlomo Levisohn, Isidore Heller and Moritz Kuh made their mark on the cultural life of Austria.

The entry of Jews into the general Austrian sphere was coincident with the changes in their civic status. The demand for equality under the law came with the “Spring of Nations” revolution, some of whose leaders were Jews. While the authorities suppressed that revolution, a year later Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph gave public recognition to the “Israelite religious Religious congregationCongregation” in Vienna.
The full emancipation granted to the Jews in 1867 ended hundreds of years of discrimination and racism and marked the beginning of the great renaissance of Vienna's Jews.

1900 | The Viennese Circle

“That which cannot be spoken of must be passed over.” This quote by Jewish-Viennese philosopher and mathematician Ludwig Wittgenstein serves well to describe the initial reaction to one's learning of the annals of the Jews of Vienna from the moment they were granted full emancipation: silence; a loss of words; A mouth agape at the explosion of talent, genius and intellectual flare by a collection of Jewish figures the likes of which had never been seen, the sons and grandsons of vendors, shopkeepers and itinerant panhandlers. The Jews of Vienna took to the fruits of the emancipation like a people possessed.
The examples are too numerous to fully list. Political science researcher Friedrich Hertz, who composed Austria's constitution following WW1; Philosopher philosopher Karl Popper, who revolutionized scientific methodology; Ludwig Wittgenstein, Popper's rival and the author of “Philosophical Investigations”; The Jewish thinker Moritz Schlick, who founded the renowned “Viennese Circle” and many, many others.

The fields of art was one where the presence of Jews was felt most keenly. One of the greatest musicians of the early 20th century was Gustav Mahler, who despite his Jewish background was appointed to head the Vienna Royal Court Opera. In the field of literature one finds the Jewish writer Arthur Schnitzler, who in 1900 founded the “Young Vienna” literary circle. Schnitzler, who wrote openly about the struggle of Jews against anti-Semitic expressions, was joined by many Jewish writers, among the them Richard Beer-Hofmann and Felix Salten.

The Jews were no slouches in the field of theater either. Among the most famous practitioners were director, actor and producer Max Reinhardt (who fled the Nazi repression in 1938 and moved to Hollywood, where he directed a star-studded film version of Shakespeare's “Midsummer's Night Dream”), and Oscar Weller who founded a Jewish political satirical cabaret.

Vienna also became a center of Jewish national revival. It was there that Peretz Smolenskin published the Hebrew peridocalperiodical “Hashachar” and where Nathan Birnbaum, the man who coined the term “Zionism,” founded the first national Jewish student union, “Kedma”. All this on top of what was the main newspaper read by the liberal Vienneses Vieniesse bourgeoisie at the time, the Neue Freie Presse, many of whose writers were Jews.

The paper delivery boys of the “Neue” probably never imagined that two Jews, residents of one of the streets on their route, were destined to make an indelible mark on world history: The first was Binyamin Zeev (Theodore)Theodor (Benjamin Ze'ev) Herzl, who was also a senior correspondent for the newspaper, and another, one Sigmund Freud.


1938 | Renaissance, The End

The Jewish renaissance in the land of Mozart and Schubert came to an end in March 1938, with the annexation (Anschluss) of Austria by Nazi Germany. The numbers speak for themselves: Before the annexation there were 181,882 Jews living in Austria (mostly in Vienna). By 1942 only 2,000-5,000 remained on her soil. In fact, there are demographic experts who cite an even higher number, and claim that prior to the war there were as many as 200,000 Jews living in Austria. The disparity in numbers is likely due to the fact that the Nazis were more “open” in their answer to the question “Who is a Jew”. To them, a Jewish grandparent sufficed to assign one to the chosen people.

Most Austrian Jews of Austria took no chances on how the Nazis would define them. Between 1938-1941 two thirds of them emigrated, mostly to the United States, Britain, the Land of Israel and South America. The rest, some 70,000, perished in the Holocaust.

Following WW2 displaced persons camps were established in Austria and routes were opened for the “Bricha,” or “Escape” movement, which from 1944-1948 arranged the illegal immigration of some 300,000 Holocaust survivors to Israel. During the Cold War Vienna also served as a transit point for Soviet Jews who were allowed to emigrate to Israel or to the West.

Jewish Population in Vienna

Year Number of Jews Share of the population
1857 2,617 1.3%
1900 146,926 8.7%
1923 201,513 10.8%
1934 176,034 9.1%
1951 9,000 0.6%

2014 | A Mosaic of Identities

In 2014 Vienna – the largest Jewish center in Austria today – was home to 12-15,000 Jews, some 800 of these Holocaust survivors who lived there before the Anschluss, and some 1,500 immigrants from the former Soviet Bloc. Vienna features synagogues, a retirement home and a Jewish museum (opened in 1993), as well as various community institutions.

The Jewish community in Vienna is a mosaic of identities, from Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) to Reform Jews. In additionaddition, there is a small community of Georgian Jews in the city and one of Bukharan Jews. These operate separate synagogues and a large community center known as the “Sephardi Center”. The Jewish community in the city hold a rich array of activities organized by the Chabad movement, which operates kindergartens, schools, a community center and even a university in the city. There are also branches of the Bnei Akiva and Hashomer Hatzair youth movements.

The sons and daughters of the Jewish-Austrian community have found a place of honor in the political life of their republic. Among the most famous are Bruno Kreisky, who served as the highly popular Chancellor of Austria for 13 years, Elizabeth Pittermann, a Member of Parliament for the Social-Democratic Party, and Peter Sichrovsky, a former Member of Parliament for the Austrian Freedom Party.

One stain on Austrian political life is Kurt Waldheim, who despite his dubious past in the Nazi Wehrmacht, was elected as the (mostly ceremonial) President of Austria, serving one six-year term and declining to stand for re-election. Fascist Jorg Haider, infamous for his anti-Semitic statements, served as Governor of the State of Carinthia from 1999 until his death in 2008.

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En Route to Eretz Israel, Austria, 1940's

On the way to a gathering point, en route to Eretz Israel, Austria, 1945-1948.
The Oster Visual Documentation Center, ANU - Museum of the Jewish People

Image Purchase: For more details about image purchasing Click here, make sure you have the photo ID number (as appear above)

Austria

Austria

Republik Österreich - Republic of Austria

A country in central Europe, member of the European Union (EU). 

21st Century

Estimated Jewish Population in 2018: 9,000 out of 9,000,000 (0.1%). Main umbrella organization of the Jewish communities:

Bundesverband der Israelitischen Kultusgemeinden Österreichs – IKG (Federation of Austrian Jewish Communities)
Phone: 43 1 531 04 0
Fax: 43 1 531 04 108 
Email: office@ikg-wien.at
Website: www.ikg-wien.at

 

HISTORY

The Jews of Austria

1244 | With Compound Interest

The tendency to view the Jews as a foreign implant practicing strange customs and lifestyles has often brought about discriminatory legislation and restrictions on their freedom of occupation. It was none other than Friedrich the Second Frederick II , Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (a political entity of the Middle Ages, based in Vienna) who understood the advantages of Jewish uniqueness, which manifested among other things in the fact that Judaism, unlike Christianity, permitted money lending. And so, in the year 1244, the Emperor bestowed upon the Jews of Austria a bill of rights, which encouraged them to practice money lending and gave them physical protection, the right to self-jurisdiction and the right to collect taxes within the community.

During this period some of the most important rabbis of Ashkenaz moved to Vienna. These rabbis, known as “The Wise Men Sages of Vienna” or “The Great Ones of Osterreich Oesterreich” (Austria,) built the largest beit midrash in Central Europe at the time in Vienna. Foremost among them was Rabbi Issac Ben Moses, whose guide to halacha (religious law), titled “Or Zarua” (“Planted Light Light Is Sown”) became one of the bedrock texts of the yeshiva world.

Frederick II Friedrich may have meant well, but in many ways he may have been responsible for the birth of the antisemiticanti-Semitic stereotype of the Jewish usurer. Today it is hard to determine whether that stereotype had any basis in reality, but documents from the time show that money lending and tax collection were very prevalent occupations among Austrian Jews, which could hardly have helped ease relations with the general Christian population.

1420 | King of the Jews

On July 6th 1415 the Czech revolutionary Jan Hus, considered one of the forerunners of the Reformation, was executed. His anti-Catholic ideas, among them viewing the Bible as the supreme source of authority and rejecting the polytheistic elements of Catholicism, were consistent with the core values of the Jewish religion, and therefore aroused suspicion that the Jews were collaborating with him. The equivalency drawn by Catholics between Hus and the Jews spread throughout Central Europe and reached its peak in Austria, which severely worsened its treatment of Jews.
In 1420 the Jewish community of Austria reached an unprecedented nadir when one of the leading figures of the city was accused of Host desecration desecrating the Eucharist. Some 200 Jews were burned at the stake as punishment. At that time Austria became one of the first countries in Central Europe to expel its Jews.
The luck of the Jews turned for the better in 1469, when Frederick III Friedrich the Third – whose kind treatment of the Jews gave him the nickname “King of the Jews” - ascended to the throne and annulled the expulsion edict against them.

1670 | From Bad to Worse

In the years 1564-1619, during the reigns of Maximilian II Maximilian the Second, Rudolph II the Second and Matthias, the influence of the Jesuits in Austria grew, and the condition of the Jews deteriorated. Even before that, during the reign of Ferdinand the First I, they were forced to pay heavy taxes, and to wear the sign of shame, the infamous yellow star which would inspire the Nazis some 300 hundred years later. But the low point was reached during the reign of Leopold the First I, under whom Jews were regularly persecuted and even expelled from Vienna in 1670 (although they gradually returned to it.)

Leopold's despicable treatment of the Jews did not stop him from using the services of Samson Wertheimer, one of the most famous “court Jews” in history, considered the richest man in Austria at the time. Wertheimer did all he could to help his Jewish brethren, and among other accomplishments prevented the expulsion of the Jews of Rothenberg and published the Babylonia Babylonian Talmud in Frankfurt.

1782 | The Apple Falls Far From the Tree

Following the partition of Poland and the annexation of Galicia to Austria, hundreds of thousands of Jews were added to the subjects of the Habsburg Empire. It should be noted that until the early 19th century, most Jews under Habsburg rule lived outside the territories of the modern Republic of Austria.
Maria Theresa, ruler of the empire, was ambivalent in her approach to the Jews. On one hand she availed herself of the financial skills of the richer ones among them to pad the royal treasury, and on the other she harbored a deep anti-Semitic hatred towards them, probably due to being a devout Catholic. So she granted titles and honors to those who were of use to her and whispered brilliant financial advice in her ears, and denied rights to all the rest, leaving them to persecution and daily outrages.

Her son and heir, Emperor Joseph the Second II, fell far from the tree. In 1782 Joseph issued his famous edict of tolerance Edict of Tolerance, which called for the integration of Jews into general society in accordance with the values of the age of enlightenment Age of Enlightenment. The edict abolished many restrictions that applied to the Jews, and permitted them to study at institutions of higher learning and to hire Christian servants. But the edict had some fine print as well: In return for the reforms, the Jews were required to blur their identity and reclusive tendencies. Among other thingsthings, they were forbidden to use Yiddish or Hebrew in official documents, their community authorities were restricted and the right to marry was only given to those who graduated from school. The edict was met with mixed emotions. The Jews realized that integration into general society was unavoidable, even if the price – blurring their identity and renouncing their faith – was not always to their liking.

1867 | Who's The Elitist?

While Joseph's “Edict of Tolerance” did indeed indicate a significant change in the treatment of Jews and enabled their integration into society, it mostly applied to those determined to be “tolerably Jewish” - and even those were not allowed to buy houses and were burdened with special taxes. At the same time the edict helped establish a cultural atmosphere that opened a broad window for Austrian the Jews of Austria onto the ideas of the enlightenmentEnlightenment. This caused a change in the hierarchical structure of the Jewish community. Between the 16th and 18th centuries, one of the tickets to the Austrian-Jewish elite was the mocking appellation “Court Jew” - but in the 19th century the Jewish elite consisted mostly of those who demonstrated impressive intellectual capacities, and not necessarily those who served high-placed masters.

During the 19th century intellectual life in Austria began to kick into high gear. Vienna became a center of Hebrew literature. Various magazines and periodicals, among them “Bikurei Haitim” and “Kerem Hemed” were published, and many intellectuals, including Naftali Herz Homberg, Shlomo Levisohn, Isidore Heller and Moritz Kuh made their mark on the cultural life of Austria.

The entry of Jews into the general Austrian sphere was coincident with the changes in their civic status. The demand for equality under the law came with the “Spring of Nations” revolution, some of whose leaders were Jews. While the authorities suppressed that revolution, a year later Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph gave public recognition to the “Israelite religious Religious congregationCongregation” in Vienna.
The full emancipation granted to the Jews in 1867 ended hundreds of years of discrimination and racism and marked the beginning of the great renaissance of Vienna's Jews.

1900 | The Viennese Circle

“That which cannot be spoken of must be passed over.” This quote by Jewish-Viennese philosopher and mathematician Ludwig Wittgenstein serves well to describe the initial reaction to one's learning of the annals of the Jews of Vienna from the moment they were granted full emancipation: silence; a loss of words; A mouth agape at the explosion of talent, genius and intellectual flare by a collection of Jewish figures the likes of which had never been seen, the sons and grandsons of vendors, shopkeepers and itinerant panhandlers. The Jews of Vienna took to the fruits of the emancipation like a people possessed.
The examples are too numerous to fully list. Political science researcher Friedrich Hertz, who composed Austria's constitution following WW1; Philosopher philosopher Karl Popper, who revolutionized scientific methodology; Ludwig Wittgenstein, Popper's rival and the author of “Philosophical Investigations”; The Jewish thinker Moritz Schlick, who founded the renowned “Viennese Circle” and many, many others.

The fields of art was one where the presence of Jews was felt most keenly. One of the greatest musicians of the early 20th century was Gustav Mahler, who despite his Jewish background was appointed to head the Vienna Royal Court Opera. In the field of literature one finds the Jewish writer Arthur Schnitzler, who in 1900 founded the “Young Vienna” literary circle. Schnitzler, who wrote openly about the struggle of Jews against anti-Semitic expressions, was joined by many Jewish writers, among the them Richard Beer-Hofmann and Felix Salten.

The Jews were no slouches in the field of theater either. Among the most famous practitioners were director, actor and producer Max Reinhardt (who fled the Nazi repression in 1938 and moved to Hollywood, where he directed a star-studded film version of Shakespeare's “Midsummer's Night Dream”), and Oscar Weller who founded a Jewish political satirical cabaret.

Vienna also became a center of Jewish national revival. It was there that Peretz Smolenskin published the Hebrew peridocalperiodical “Hashachar” and where Nathan Birnbaum, the man who coined the term “Zionism,” founded the first national Jewish student union, “Kedma”. All this on top of what was the main newspaper read by the liberal Vienneses Vieniesse bourgeoisie at the time, the Neue Freie Presse, many of whose writers were Jews.

The paper delivery boys of the “Neue” probably never imagined that two Jews, residents of one of the streets on their route, were destined to make an indelible mark on world history: The first was Binyamin Zeev (Theodore)Theodor (Benjamin Ze'ev) Herzl, who was also a senior correspondent for the newspaper, and another, one Sigmund Freud.


1938 | Renaissance, The End

The Jewish renaissance in the land of Mozart and Schubert came to an end in March 1938, with the annexation (Anschluss) of Austria by Nazi Germany. The numbers speak for themselves: Before the annexation there were 181,882 Jews living in Austria (mostly in Vienna). By 1942 only 2,000-5,000 remained on her soil. In fact, there are demographic experts who cite an even higher number, and claim that prior to the war there were as many as 200,000 Jews living in Austria. The disparity in numbers is likely due to the fact that the Nazis were more “open” in their answer to the question “Who is a Jew”. To them, a Jewish grandparent sufficed to assign one to the chosen people.

Most Austrian Jews of Austria took no chances on how the Nazis would define them. Between 1938-1941 two thirds of them emigrated, mostly to the United States, Britain, the Land of Israel and South America. The rest, some 70,000, perished in the Holocaust.

Following WW2 displaced persons camps were established in Austria and routes were opened for the “Bricha,” or “Escape” movement, which from 1944-1948 arranged the illegal immigration of some 300,000 Holocaust survivors to Israel. During the Cold War Vienna also served as a transit point for Soviet Jews who were allowed to emigrate to Israel or to the West.

Jewish Population in Vienna

Year Number of Jews Share of the population
1857 2,617 1.3%
1900 146,926 8.7%
1923 201,513 10.8%
1934 176,034 9.1%
1951 9,000 0.6%

2014 | A Mosaic of Identities

In 2014 Vienna – the largest Jewish center in Austria today – was home to 12-15,000 Jews, some 800 of these Holocaust survivors who lived there before the Anschluss, and some 1,500 immigrants from the former Soviet Bloc. Vienna features synagogues, a retirement home and a Jewish museum (opened in 1993), as well as various community institutions.

The Jewish community in Vienna is a mosaic of identities, from Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) to Reform Jews. In additionaddition, there is a small community of Georgian Jews in the city and one of Bukharan Jews. These operate separate synagogues and a large community center known as the “Sephardi Center”. The Jewish community in the city hold a rich array of activities organized by the Chabad movement, which operates kindergartens, schools, a community center and even a university in the city. There are also branches of the Bnei Akiva and Hashomer Hatzair youth movements.

The sons and daughters of the Jewish-Austrian community have found a place of honor in the political life of their republic. Among the most famous are Bruno Kreisky, who served as the highly popular Chancellor of Austria for 13 years, Elizabeth Pittermann, a Member of Parliament for the Social-Democratic Party, and Peter Sichrovsky, a former Member of Parliament for the Austrian Freedom Party.

One stain on Austrian political life is Kurt Waldheim, who despite his dubious past in the Nazi Wehrmacht, was elected as the (mostly ceremonial) President of Austria, serving one six-year term and declining to stand for re-election. Fascist Jorg Haider, infamous for his anti-Semitic statements, served as Governor of the State of Carinthia from 1999 until his death in 2008.