Austria’s police receive training against antisemitism

Austria’s police officers will receive their own antisemitism training in the coming months: police students in the form of a full-day course, trained police officers as an online module. This is what Interior Minister Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) said at a joint media talk with the President of the Israelite Community, Oskar Deutsch, and the education expert Daniel Landau, who developed the training module.

With the special training, police officers are to be made more aware of antisemitism. In addition to explaining the phenomenon, the training also includes the legal basis, effects, victim protection provisions, investigative aids and technical recording.

For police students in basic training there will be three units in which antisemitism will be dealt with historically, the functioning and mechanisms of antisemitism will be demonstrated and there will also be encounters with Jewish fellow citizens. In doing so, the “Likrat” initiative launched by the IKG is used, in which specially trained young people of the Jewish faith are brought together with schoolchildren, apprentices and other young people.

For the police training, somewhat older (former) members of Likrat are specially trained for this task by the IKG. The objective is a better understanding in each case and the removal of any mutually existing blind spots by means of real encounters, including the opportunity to ask open questions, explained Landau.

With around 32,000 employees, going through the online module will take a few months. In addition to this training, which has now been initiated, “hate crime” or “prejudice motive” has been electronically recorded as a separate offense when reports are filed.

“We want every incident to be reported because if it is not reported, it has not taken place. The police officers need to be made aware of this, ”said Deutsch. Many police officers have never come into contact with Judaism in their lives, which is why they made the project very useful, so Deutsch. He would like the same training for the armed forces and the judiciary.

“Unfortunately, antisemitism and the security of our Jewish community have been the focus of our work in recent years,” said Deutsch, regretting the increase in antisemitic incidents. The community is forced to invest a lot of money in security, namely 20 percent of its budget. Jewish parents would not send their children to Jewish schools if they were not guarded and many Jews did not go to synagogues either.

In Jewish schools not only the fire alarm is practiced, but also the terror alarm. From kindergarten to high school, Jewish children have to learn how to behave in a terrorist case. “That is not a condition. I find it difficult to live with it, ”said the President of the Israelite Religious Community.

In the first half of 2022 there was a doubling of antisemitic incidents with 562 cases. It is often difficult to find out whether a right-wing radical or an Islamist background is behind it. “It’s about the same,” says Deutsch.

Karl Nehammer described antisemitism as a “plague”, for the elimination of which there are no quick solutions. For the police officers, as protectors of fundamental rights and freedoms, it is important to be sensitized in this area. If, for example, David stars are worn at corona demos or the corona measures are compared with the Holocaust, the police officers have to notice and punish.