Austria approves $27 mn for Jewish cemeteries

An estimated 65,000 Austrian Jews perished in Holocaust and many others fled.

Vienna: Austria`s Parliament on Wednesday passed a bill to provide USD 27 million in federal funds for restoring Jewish cemeteries over the next two decades.

The move ends years of discord over who should pay for the much-needed endeavour to preserve the remnants of a once vibrant community decimated by the Nazis.

The bill foresees annual government payments of USD 1.4 million into a special fund over the next 20 years. The country`s Jewish community will supplement the government`s contributions each year through EUR 1 million in donations.

The measure, which takes effect in 2011, also asks local municipalities where such cemeteries are located to maintain them for at least 20 years after they have been restored.

Ariel Muzicant, president of Jewish Community Vienna, welcomed yesterday’s vote, which followed a government pledge to provide funds last December.

"I`m overjoyed and satisfied that a way has been found to save such an important cultural heritage," Muzicant said.

In total, there are 61 Jewish cemeteries in the Alpine republic, he said.

An estimated 65,000 Austrian Jews perished in the Holocaust and many others fled. In 1938, about 192,000 Jews lived in Austria, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.