chapter  4
The Jewish Cemetery of Währing, Vienna: Competing Voices and Contested Discourses in the Austrian Restoration Debates
Pages 19

Vienna’s Jewish cemeteries are sites of deep religious and cultural significance, vestiges of one of Europe’s greatest historical Jewish population centres. They were desecrated during the Shoah and their dilapidation continued after 1945 because of neglect and natural decay. These sites, coupled with the painful and contested memories of the Shoah, have provoked repeated legal and historical conflicts following 1945. In recent years, a string of debates, commemorative events and the erection of monuments in Vienna to the victims of National Socialism have helped redress what was long perceived as a failure of Austrian society to recognise its destroyed Jewish heritage, address its Nazi past and challenge the long-dominant narrative of the Austrian ‘victim myth’.2 However, following the turn of the millennium, a new row ignited, resurfacing periodically until the time of this writing (2013), regarding Austria’s historic Jewish cemeteries. This debate focuses strikingly often on the old Jewish cemetery in Währing, Vienna (hereafter simply Währing). This sealed and dangerously dilapidated space contests existing narratives, confounds consensus and elicits a discursive exchange from a plethora of agents, local, national and international, from politics to media and from the grass-roots to the establishment.